Zimbabwe sanctions protesters ejected
Harare - Protesters pushing for the Zimbabwean finance minister to sign a petition calling for the lifting of international sanctions against the country had to be dispersed by police Wednesday.
The protesters, who call themselves the Anti Sanctions Trust and are members of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, chanted party songs as they surrounded the ministry.
Fanuel Mutasa, who claimed to be the leader of the group, told ministry staff that the group had been sent by Zimbabwean Information Minister Webster Shamu to demand the signature of Finance Minister Tendai Biti on the petition.
Mugabe penned the anti-sanctions petition earlier this year, saying he planned to present it to Western countries which have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on himself and senior Zanu-PF officials who stand accused of human rights abuses.
Mugabe has argued that sanctions have hurt Zimbabwe's economy, while his critics say it is his policies which have hurt the once vibrant economy.
"We want him to sign... because we noticed he has not appended his signature to the petition. We are suffering. After him, we will go to the higher offices," said Mutasa, making an apparent reference to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai and Biti both belong to the Movement for Democratic Change, which has been in a rocky coalition government with Zanu-PF since 2009.
Willard Manungo told the demonstrators that Biti was at a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF)and World Bank officials.
A visibly undeterred Biti later told journalists after the group had been dispersed that he would not sign a partisan document.
"I will not sign any petition that belongs to any political party. I will not do that," said Biti. "What this country needs to do is to concentrate on the issue of putting food on the table of Zimbabweans, putting jobs in the homes of our people.
"There is 85% unemployment in Zimbabwe, so my mandate as minister of finance is the mandate of the prime minister, and everyone who is in government is to make sure the people of Zimbabwe [have] jobs and food, so nothing will deviate us from that mandate."
The demonstration at Biti's offices took place just two weeks after a bomb failed to detonate at his residence.