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As civil unrest grows in Zimbabwe, where ageing African dictator Robert Mugabe clings to power, the European Union (EU) has called on the Zimbabwean government not to use force against protestors – unless it is a last resort. Dozens of people have been injured in clashes with police as mass action against the Mugabe regime escalates. Police have fired tear gas at demonstrators and used water cannons and batons, with seriously injured protestors appearing in court this week after being arrested during protest action. Tension is running high in Zimbabwe, where the economy is in free-fall. With high levels of poverty and unemployment and the government increasingly battling to pay civil servants, discontent over Mugabe’s rule is intensifying. Ahead of a national stay-away, an EU delegation issued a statement calling for police restraint. Amnesty International, meanwhile, has highlighted the disappearance of anti-government activists and the “chilling” lack of effort by Zimbabwe’s authorities to investigate these incidents. It said this week: “The enforced disappearance of government critics continues to be common in Zimbabwe. In 2008, dozens of opposition and human rights activists disappeared for weeks in a crackdown. The state repeatedly denied its involvement, but many activists were later found in its custody, while the fate and whereabouts of others remain unknown.” These statements by international groups will not please Mugabe, who has steadfastly maintained that western governments are behind Zimbabwe’s woes. – Jackie Cameron
Harare – Ahead of a planned national stay-away in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, the EU has expressed its concern at rising cases of police violence towards protesters.
“Use of force should only be considered as a last resort,” the EU delegation to Zimbabwe said on Tuesday in a statement likely to anger officials close to longtime president Robert Mugabe, which says Western embassies are behind the wave of protests currently rocking this southern African nation.
In power in Zimbabwe for the last 36 years, Mugabe is taking an increasingly hard line on protesters, with police using tear-gas, batons and water cannon to beat back not just those taking to the streets but also bystanders unlucky enough to be caught up in the chaos.
The #Tajamuka pressure group behind Wednesday’s stay-away has urged Zimbabweans to avoid the streets and any confrontation with police – but it’s still not clear how widely this protest will be followed.
Read also: Cathy Buckle: The Zimbabwean unthinkable – fighting with ‘button’ sticks
Anti-Mugabe campaigners held two stay-aways in July but only the first was widely followed.
No single leader of the protests
Analysts say many in Zimbabwe’s struggling economy simply cannot afford to take time off while others – including schools – were ticked off by the authorities for responding to the strike calls. Schools are on holiday in Zimbabwe this month.
— African (@ali_naka) August 30, 2016
On social media there are complaints that few are aware of the strike call (though it has received the backing of the Combined Harare Residents Association, which has members in the capital’s townships). Since the leader of the #ThisFlag protest movement, churchman Evan Mawarire, was forced into exile last month, protests have been staged on a near-daily basis by a variety of groups.
There is no single leader of the protests.
Clearly worried by footage and pictures of police turning on protesters in Harare recently, the EU said: “Police have a duty to facilitate the conduct of undisturbed peaceful demonstrations and petitions.”
Earlier on Tuesday the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he’d visited a 62-year old woman seen being kicked by police outside a court in Harare on Friday.
Lillian Chinyerere “sustained shoulder injuries and is now hard of hearing” but still wants to take part in the next protest, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party said. – News24
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