By Thandiwe Garusa
HUGE numbers of armed riot police officers have been deployed in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD) in anticipation of a planned national shutdown on Monday.
Activists and civic groups have threatened to stage an uprising to force the government to act on the worsening economic crisis.
They are planning a national stay away, which could bring Zimbabwe to a standstill.
They have raised a number of grievances which include discontentment over the high cost of living, a debilitating transport crisis and rising inflation.
The planned protests, running under the #ShutDownZimbabwe has set the social media ablaze over the past week, drawing threat-laden responses from authorities.
NewZimbabwe.com recently reported that the country’s security forces have been placed on high alert, ready to crash any protests.
Truckloads of riot cops in full gear could be seen driving along Harare’s streets and two spent the better part of Saturday parked near the popular Africa Unity Square while other police officers were apparently deployed at seemingly strategic places in pairs.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told NewZimbabwe.com Saturday confirmed the deployment of riot cops saying they were on the streets “just about showing visibility” and not to supress the looming protests.
“It is about police visibility. We are just maintaining police visibility as per our constitutional mandate, so there is nothing sinister about police patrolling whether on foot or using vehicles,” Nyathi said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a record of brutishly clamping down on dissent, often deploying soldiers and police officers with orders to shoot to kill.
Mnangagwa recently indicated his government would not hesitate to squelch protests, saying to youths on the even of the April 18 independence commemorations in Bulawayo: “Demonstrating will never benefit you, it will only send you to prison. Make money and be happy,” Mnangagwa said.