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Zimbabwe Red Cross Society officials treat members of the opposition who were injured after clashes with the police in Harare, Aug. 16, 2019. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Zimbabweans defied a police ban Friday and held demonstrations to protest the country's deteriorating economy.

Despite the High Court ban on planned protests, members of the Movement for Democratic Change took to the streets and clashed with police. Some of the injured accused police of derailing protests, which they said were meant to persuade President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government to breathe life into Zimbabwe's moribund economy.

With tears on her cheeks, 32-year-old Tafadzwa Bvuta said her degree had not helped her get anything for her three children.

"They beat us up," she said of the police. "What have we done? All these security forces are supposed to protect us all — not just one person. Where will we go and survive? Shall we kill our kids since we are struggling to take care of them?"

Make Nyashanu, 27, said he would continue protesting because he is miserable about being unemployed.

He said police were indiscriminately beating demonstrators — even elderly ones and people not protesting. "Is this democracy?" he asked, adding that it was a peaceful demonstration but police were causing chaos.

The opposition said it will hold another protest Monday in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, and will go to other cities and places until the government addresses the economy.

Government response

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa called the protests counterproductive, saying January's demonstrations against fuel price increases resulted in $20 million to $30 million in losses for businesses from looting and non-productive days.

"Government calls on all progressive Zimbabweans to desist from being used by negative forces to destabilize their own country, as this will only prolong the hardships which the government is tirelessly trying to address in a more sustainable manner," she said. "I wish to reiterate the call by His Excellency Comrade ED Mnangagwa for all patriotic Zimbabweans to resort to dialogue as a means to solve the challenges we face as a nation."

Daniel Molokele, the spokesman for the opposition, said his party was against Mnangagwa leading talks and accused him of stealing Zimbabwe's last election in 2018. He said the protests would continue until Zimbabwe's economy gets back on track.

MDC lawyers in court ...

The Movement for Democratic Change says police have cordoned off Harare, making it impossible for the party to stage planned protests over the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

Speaking to reporters outside the High Court where the party was seeking permission to stage the protests after the police revoked some provisions of the Public Order and Security Act to stop the public march in the city, MDC lawyers and party officials said state security agents had sealed off the city and surrounding areas.

One of the attorneys representing the party, Tendai Biti, who is also MDC vice president, said it would have been impossible to even stage the march if the High Court had granted it permission to take to the streets.

In court ...
In court ...

“The High Court ruled that we should go to the magistrates’ courts in this matter but we believe that we can’t do that at the moment … Even if we had been granted permission, the state has cordoned off Harare … Our headquarters are totally cordoned off too. This is a fascist government that does not have the respect of Zimbabweans,” said Biti.

Party spokesperson Daniel Molokele said as a result of the right security situation in Harare, residents are urged to stay indoors.

“Stay at home and be safe. We are proceeding with the protest next week. We are not backing down the struggle continues.”

Molokele said, “The High Court has referred the people's lawyers application against the police prohibition order back to the Magistrates courts. The people's lawyers have decided not to go to the Magistrates Courts. The people's lawyers have expressed total shock and respectfully think the judgment was riddled with political interference by the junta.

Tendai Biti in court
Tendai Biti in court

“ln the meantime, heavily armed police have cordoned off all the major roads leading into the city centre. The junta has also deployed a huge police contigent at both the Africa Unity Square and the MDC headquarters. This effectively means that the junta has now forcibly declared a total shutdown of Harare today. So for now the people must remain calm, avoid any form of violence and stay safely at home.”

He noted that the time has come for the people of Zimbabwe to take charge of their future and democratic destiny.

Indications are that police have been blocking people from going to the Harare Central Business District amid claims by the MDC that at least 15 people were arrested in Mabvuku and a large number of other residents in different parts of Harare.

ln the meantime, the preparations will continue for the other already planned people's marches to be held at Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo.

Police were not available for comment.

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