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Zimbabwe Minister Threatens to Punish Stay Away Protesters

Ignatius Chombo and other state officials addressing the press in Harare on Tuesday.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo has warned activists, who may want to stage protests in the two-day national job stay-away that have been called for Wednesday and Thursday, that authorities would clamp down on them.

At the same time, police in Harare have arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag campaign on charges of incitement ahead of the work boycotts.

Chombo told a news conference that the police would be out in full force to deal with any form of unlawlessness during the two-day national job stay-away being organized by some opposition groups.

Chombo said although Zimbabweans have a constitutional right to petition government, this should be done in an orderly and lawful way. He added that the army would not be deployed in the streets in case of civil unrest arguing that Zimbabwe has enough police officers to maintain law and order.

Responding to a question why President Robert Mugabe is not heeding the protestors’ call for him to leave office for failing to run the country’s affairs, Chombo said Mr. Mugabe has an electoral mandate to remain in office.

His remarks come at a time when police have arrested Pastor Ivan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag campaign.

Mawarire’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo told Studio 7 by phone from Harare Central Police Station that his client is facing charges of inciting violence.

Nkomo said police claim that the clergyman was in possession of a police helmet, baton stick and some subversive material that he allegedly used during the July 6th stay-away.

Some organizations such as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and several opposition parties have condemned the arrest of Mawarire and other activists ahead of tomorrow’s stay-away.

One government employee, who refused to be named, said he will be part of the people who are going to heed the call to stay-away from his workplace saying the government must address the concerns of its citizens.

Some human rights groups like the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have called on police to respect the rights of any protestors during the stay-away.

Report On Shutdown Filed By Thomas Chiripasi
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