By Bulawayo Correspondent
BULAWAYO was Thursday teeming with armed anti-riot police officers, stationed at “strategic” points within the city, as government moved in ahead of planned civil servants’ protests set for Friday.
The same situation was evident in Masvingo where the paramilitary unit was deployed Wednesday.
Civil servants under the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) banner, disgruntled by government’s refusal to pay them in US dollars, Tuesday decided they will be marching and petitioning the labour and public service ministries.
Police mounted roadblocks on some major roads leading into Bulawayo’s central business district (CBD), stopped vehicles, and searched them for what one of them said were “dangerous weapons.”
Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president, Mqondisi Moyo, said they were worried by government’s decision to intimidate citizens, yet it could solve issues being raised.
“As Mthwakazi, we are really concerned about this government’s unnecessary show of force to unarmed citizens.
“Instead of addressing the deteriorating economic situation in the country, the government of Zimbabwe is busy intimidating our people.,” said Moyo.
Teachers, represented by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), have also indicated their intention to join protests, calling for reinstatement of their US dollar salaries as of October 2018.
They will be joining the rest of the civil service on June 1.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) provincial spokesperson, Swithern Chiroodza, said they had received information the heavy police presence was a result of misleading information the state had received that the opposition outfit was planning demonstrations.
He said government’s prompt deployment of anti-riot officers was testament that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime was a continuation of late predecessor Robert Mugabe’s police state.
“There is a heavy and intimidating deployment of anti-riot police officers in Bulawayo and Masvingo. We learn from rumours that the deployment is meant to counter a CCC demonstration,” said Chiroodza.
“This information is false but helpful in demonstrating the priorities of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Lacoste government.
“Mnangagwa calls his post November 2017 government the new dispensation, while basically it is a continuation of Robert Mugabe’s police state. It would be better for police to help communities.
They should deploy more police officers to communities throughout the country for the protection of valuable infrastructure and citizens’ lives and property.”
Zimbabweans are currently reeling under an economic crisis that threatens to take them back to the 2008 era where basic goods and services were in short supply, and where they were available were highly priced and out of reach of many.
Already, the country’s inflation rate has topped world rankings, according to renowned economist, Professor Steve Hanke. Civil servants’ salaries, which are being paid in the Zimbabwe dollar, are near worthless and government is not yet talking of hiking them.