Zimbabwe protest today: What you need to know

2017-03-22 09:41


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Harare - Critics of President Robert Mugabe's government are planning a protest in Harare this morning.

Although it was reportedly given the go-ahead by the High Court, police now say they won't allow protesters to march.

Trouble ahead? Here's what you need to know.

What is this march about?

This has been called by NERA, the National Electoral Reform Agenda. It's not a formal coalition of Zimbabwe opposition parties, but it does group a number of them under its call for electoral reforms. At stake today is the sudden about-turn of the government on the matter of the procurement of the biometric voter registration (BVR) kits needed to compile a new voters' roll ahead of polls in 2018. Initially Zimbabwe was fine with the UNDP being in charge of procurement: now the government says it is taking over the process. The opposition - and that of course includes the main Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change - is worried that this opens the door to rigging.

Have the police totally banned this march?

Not exactly, though that's what the headlines are saying. What the police have actualy said is that protesters will be allowed only to gather in Freedom Square (that's the one near Zanu-PF headquarters). A small delegation of 10 people maximum will be allowed to take their petition to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission headquarters but there will be no mass movement of marchers in the central business district. Will protesters abide by this stipulation? The pro-Mugabe Herald newspaper says it has information that Movement for Democratic Change youths will block roads and burn tyres. In the past, opposition parties have complained that "agitators" have been sent in to disrupt marches.

But didn't the High Court say the march could go ahead?

The police say they have no knowledge of that ruling, according to the Herald.

Wasn't there trouble yesterday in a meeting with the chief of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission?

Yes, police were reportedly called in when political parties heckled Rita Makarau, the head of ZEC at a meeting in Harare yesterday. She "stormed" out of the meeting, Newsday said. Not a sign of improving relations with ZEC, which has long been seen as an arm of Mugabe's government (and his ruling party) by the opposition.

Why is state media saying the EU plans to "sponsor" MDC youths in the protest?

The Herald says that "sponsorship" for tyre-burning and road-blocking will come from the EU and the Counselling Services Unit. This may be at least in part an allegation linked to the EU's recent call for proposals from civil society organisations promoting democratic participation and good governance. Mugabe's spokesman last week suggested that this was part of a regime change agenda.

Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  morgan tsvangirai  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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