By James Muonwa in Chinhoyi
PROVINCIAL AFFAIRS Minister for Mashonaland West, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka says Zimbabweans who ignored warnings not to take part in anti-government protests planned for July 31 risked the wrath of security forces.
The protests, also supported Zimbabwean civic groups, have been called to register displeasure high level corruption in government corridors as well as a deepening economic crisis under the Zanu PF led government’s watch.
Officiating at a handover ceremony of personal protective equipment donated by China at her Chinhoyi offices recently, Mliswa-Chikoka said locals who disregarded the warning risked the full wrath of the army and law enforcement agencies.
The top government official reminded Zimbabweans of fierce riots of January last year in which over a dozen locals were killed by the military with more maimed as a result of the atrocities.
“January last year was an awful time. We cannot afford a repeat as we also have Covid-19 to deal with.
“Covid-19 has reached another level and we cannot be complacent and be used by people with their own hidden agendas.
“Protests have been banned the world over. Why would people risk their lives participating in demonstrations? There are risks of infected people deliberately joining these illegal protest to spread the virus.”
She added, “As Mashonaland West, we do not condone this planned revolt as we are a peace-loving people. Our law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to deal with demonstrators.”
President Mnangagwa’s administration is reportedly in panic mode and has activated all security services apparatus in readiness to clampdown on protesters.
The UN has accused Mnangagwa’s government of using Covid-19 as an excuse to clamp down on citizen rights.
Opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader and chief organiser of the planned protests, Jacob Ngarivhume was last week arrested alongside journalist Hopewell Chin’ono for allegedly inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against a constitutionally elected government.
In her address, Mliswa-Chikoka also said only workers providing essential services should report for duty, while the rest should stay at home in light of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.
She lamented the lack of adherence to laid down Covid-19 containment regulations, particularly maintaining physical distancing in public places.
“It has been noted that while it’s not a huge problem with people wearing face masks and hand sanitising, it has been observed that maintaining social distancing remains a big challenge thereby increasing risks of transmissions,” she said.
During the event the minister also received a donation of maize grain from local farmers to be distributed to hospitals, isolation and quarantine centres dotted across the province to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic which has seen 26 deaths and over 2 000 people infected nationwide.