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Zimbabwe Police Ban Opposition Protest Planned for Monday

MDC Demos - Harare
MDC Demos - Harare

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe police have banned an anti-government demonstration planned for Monday by the country’s main opposition party in the city of Bulawayo, saying it would likely result in “public disorder”.

Police banned another demonstration planned by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Harare on Friday, when they chased opposition supporters from the capital’s streets with tear gas and arrested dozens of people.

The MDC, which accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of repression and mismanagement, called for the protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in a decade.

“Ordinary citizens in the country are experiencing hardships so any call for the demonstrations might be taken advantage of by the already agitated citizens and violence may erupt,” police said in a notice banning the demonstration.

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said on Friday that his party would continue to mobilise against the government but that it wanted to avoid “blood in the streets”.

Anger is mounting over triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel and bread, bringing back memories of the hyperinflation a decade ago that forced Zimbabwe to ditch its currency.

The demonstrations are viewed as a test of Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent in a country tainted by a long history of repression under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who ruled for nearly 40 years.

Zimbabweans had expected that Mugabe’s ousting in 2017 would pave the way for greater freedoms, but opponents say Mnangagwa has failed to make good on promises of political and economic reform.

In January, more than a dozen people were killed during a crackdown in Harare against fuel demonstrations.

In the lead up to last week’s planned demonstration, rights groups said six political activists were abducted from their homes at night and beaten by armed men.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe Writing by Alexander Winning. Editing by Jane Merriman