Zimbabwe strike falters as pastor due in court

2016-07-13 12:45
Pastor Evan Mawarire (File, AFP)

Pastor Evan Mawarire (File, AFP)

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Harare - Most businesses and schools in Zimbabwe opened on Wednesday despite campaigners calling for a nationwide strike after a series of protests that have shaken President Robert Mugabe's government.

Police were on patrol in the capital Harare a day after protest leader Evan Mawarire, a pastor who founded the internet ThisFlag protest movement, was arrested and charged with inciting public violence.

Mawarire, who is due to appear in court on Wednesday, organised a widely-implemented one-day national shutdown last week when offices, shops, schools and some government departments stayed closed.

The surge in unrest in Zimbabwe, where protests have been rare under Mugabe's authoritarian rule, has been driven by an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and the government struggling to pay its workers on time.

"They made sure that they arrested the people who are most vocal and fearless - that is why the response is not as good as it was last week," said Onias Marongwa, who works in a grocery store.

A group of youths carrying the Zimbabwean flag, which has become a symbol of protest, gathered at the magistrate's court in Harare where Mawarire was due to appear.

In the south-eastern town of Masvingo, most shops and offices were also open.

"The regime's machinery is very visible," Takafira Zhou, leader of the Progressive Teachers' Union in the town, told AFP.

"Today's response to the strike is low as some people who took part last week had their salaries forfeited and they fear for the worst if they are seen to be defiant."

A spate of demonstrations has revealed long-bubbling frustration at Mugabe's regime in a country where 90% of the population are not in formal jobs.

Last week security forces used tear gas and water cannons to disperse violent protests outside Harare that erupted over police officers allegedly using road blocks to extort cash from motorists.

Television footage showed police beating protesters with sticks.

Other protests have erupted at the border with South Africa over a ban on imports such as canned vegetables, powdered milk and cooking oil.

On Tuesday evening, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo held a press conference to warn that anyone who took part in the planned two-day strike would face "the full wrath of the law".

"I urge members of the public to desist from engaging in illegal protests," he said.

Many civil servants have been paid their delayed June salaries since last week.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  evan mawarire  |  zimbabwe
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