Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa on Wednesday denied reports that his ministry has moved to ban demonstrations and protests until after the World Cup of soccer in South Africa is over.
The Zimbabwe Standard weekly reported that authorities were moving to ban protests to prevent adverse publicity at a time when attention would be focused on Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, as a tourist destination. The paper quoted Mutsekwa as saying that the decision was part of a strategy to “rebrand” Zimbabwe.
Sources said Mutsekwa and Co-Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi agreed last week to ban any protests during the World Cup. But Mutsekwa was later sharply criticized by colleagues in the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for his association with the proposed ban.
Reached for comment, Mohadi responded that he does not speak with VOA Studio 7 which officials of his ZANU-PF party often describe as a "pirate" radio station broadcasting from outside Zimbabwe's borders.
The Zimbabwean newspaper reported that the Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri had already informed senior officers that they should not allow demonstrations in their areas as of June 1.
Police sources confirmed they have received circulars informing them about the ministerial directive.
Civic organizations condemned the move by authorities to ban protests during the World Cup period. Media reports quoted a senior South African official as saying Pretoria would ban protests during the World Cup.
Home Affairs Co-Minister Mutsekwa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the government has no right to stop citizens exercising their rights, dismissing reports that he supported such a ban.
Meanwhile, police on Wednesday arrested the president of a faction of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and two other union activists, accusing them of trying to incite University of Zimbabwe students to violence.
Tafadzwa Mugwadi, president of the ZINASU faction, and the two others were arrested after they held meetings with students on the campus urging them to resist high tuition fees. Students have long protested unaffordable fees. This week they were upset at reports the university is issuing new identity cards only to those who have paid fees.
Student sources said the two were being held at the Avondale police station.
Spokesman Kudakwashe Chakabva of the ZINASU formation told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the three activists had been beaten by police and were still in custody.