Zimbabwe police crackdown as union boss is arrested

Peter Mutasa – ZCTU-President

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights(ZLHR) posted on Twitter that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ leaders had been arrested in the capital Harare and in Mutare.

“In Harare, @ZLHRLawyers has deployed lawyers to offer emergency legal support services to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leaders including President Peter Mutasa&SG Japhet Moyo arrested by ZRP at their Harare offices today ahead of a planned anti-govt protest,” ZLHR tweeted.

See ZLHR tweets below

followed earlier reports on social media that the riot police had camped outside the ZCTU offices in Harare and by 09:15, there was no sign of protests yet in Harare.

A showdown was expected in Zimbabwe on Thursday as the ZCTU vowed on Wednesday to go ahead with the  planned protests against the country’s continued economic crisis. This was despite a police ban on account of fears of a fresh cholera outbreak.

The ZCTU said the strike was triggered by sharp price hikes, a new tax on electronic transactions and daily shortages ranging from fuel to drugs, AFP reported.

“We are going to approach the courts. We do not think the police have a legal basis [for any ban],” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said on Tuesday.

But according to NewsDay, the country’s home affairs minister Cain Mathema warned that police would be out in full force to thwart any attempts by the ZCTU to demonstrate.

Mathema reportedly said that while Zimbabweans had a democratic right to demonstrate, that right must be exercised within the limits of the law.

New lows

“We hear that there are some who want to demonstrate against what they say are an untenable economic situation in the country. Let me say that our President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) is a peace-loving person. We are a law-abiding government and so is our President.

“If people go against the law and go to demonstrate, they must know that our law will deal with them harshly. We don’t want law breakers. We don’t want people who break our peace,” Mathema was quoted as saying.

Zimbabwe’s moribund economy has hit new lows in recent days with shops struggling to stock shelves, prices of goods such as cooking oil rising rapidly due to panic buying and long queues outside petrol stations.

A 2c tax for every dollar of electronic payments was introduced last week as Mnangagwa sought  to revive the debt-ridden economy.

The local “bond note” currency, which in theory has the same value as the US dollar, has been in freefall in recent weeks, raising fears of a return to the hyper-inflation that wrecked national finances in 2009.