WATCH: Video captures heart-stopping bravery of Zim protester

2016-06-25 18:15
Zimbabwe protest (AP, file)

Zimbabwe protest (AP, file)

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Harare - Riot police advance across the tiled foyer of a luxury Harare hotel to where a man in a red shirt is waiting. He has dared them to come.

With a group of brave - some might say foolhardy protesters - he is speaking out against the profligacy of Zimbabwe's vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, who has stayed in the top-class Rainbow Towers Hotel for more than 550 nights, clocking up a reported bill of at least $300 000 as Zimbabwe sinks further into economic crisis.

"I urge the police officers coming over there to behave like human beings. We have a right to demonstrate, we have a right to petition. We actually are protected by our constitution," the man says in a video uploaded to YouTube by Alpha Media Holdings.

You cannot watch these scenes because you know exactly what will happen next to this man, unarmed but fierce in his anger.

WATCH the video:

In a Zimbabwe politically-divided as never before, it is still not okay to criticise one of long-time president Robert Mugabe's top lieutenants. Especially one rumoured to be close to first lady Grace.

As journalists film on Friday, the riot police, truncheons at the ready, drag the red-shirted man out of the foyer, along the tiled path past the neat green lawns to where a truck is waiting.

He grabs onto an officer's legs. You cannot bear to look at his face.

The police turn on another protester: A man in a white shirt. They take him by one leg so that he is left uncomfortably hopping along. Behind their desks, hotel staff watch, presumably the same hotel staff who see Mphoko clock in every night with the grandson who shares his $460 per night luxury suite.

He and his wife have turned down several extremely roomy Harare homes on the basis they are not "fitting" for a man of his stature.

Outside, the police truck is idling. The man in the red shirt struggles. Officers try to pin him down. And then - somehow - he falls out of the truck, knocking his head on the ground. With no visible sympathy the police bend over, pick him up by the back of his trousers and put him back on the truck.

There was no clear word on Saturday as to what had happened to the two men or whether they had been released. The red-shirted man has been identified as Stern Zvorwadza, the chair of the National Vendors' Union of Zimbabwe. The Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign said it organised the demonstration.

Five activists were arrested in December during an earlier protest against Mphoko's stay at the Rainbow Towers. They were released after two nights in custody. But journalist-turned-activist Itai Dzamara, who bravely protested Mugabe's continued stay in power in early 2015, was abducted 15 months ago. He has not been seen since.

Former education minister David Coltart commented on Twitter: "Remarkable bravery demonstrated by some young people demanding immediate evacuation of VP Mphoko from Rainbow hotel".

Said Facebook user Kishon Chisahwira on the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition's page, which has also shared a video of the incident: "Where are we heading to as a nation? God help us?"

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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