A mob of youths alleged to be militants of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party rampaged in Harare on Monday, looting stores and beating passers-by in what the marauders said was a protest demanding "empowerment" under the nation's Indigenization Act but which observers called a pre-electoral power play.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare that about 5,000 youths were transported through the city singing and chanting songs from the 1970s liberation struggle before attacking the Gulf shopping complex in the capital. Stores operated by Nigerians and other foreigners were said to be targeted in particular.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association condemned this latest outbreak of violence in Harare, calling it a ZANU-PF ploy to intimidate the population in preparation for elections.
The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also condemned the attacks on small businesses. Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporters that although some of those rampaging wore MDC T-shirts, his party had nothing to do the episode. He criticized police for not intervening.
Elsewhere, Defense Minster Emerson Mnangagwa said the military would crush any Egyptian-stlye uprising in Zimbabwe. State media has accused Prime Minister Tsvangirai of plotting to spark such a revolt following comments he made at the recent Global Economic Forum in Switzerland comparing Zimbabwe to
Mnangagwa told state radio on Sunday that those who want to “emulate what happened in Egypt and Tunisia will regret it. Everybody is warned to keep peace in the country.
Political commentator Brilliant Mhlanga told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mnagagwa’s statements were intended to instill fear in Zimbabweans.