Zimbabwe police on alert for protests

Harare - Riot police were expected to be out in force in Zimbabwe on Saturday after protesters planned fresh demonstrations calling for electoral reform and the resignation of President Robert Mugabe.

Police this week issued an order barring protests in the capital Harare, but campaigners on Friday vowed to challenge the ban through the courts, which overturned a similar order earlier this month.

A coalition of opposition parties under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) is demanding reform ahead of the 2018 election, when Mugabe, now aged 92, plans to stand again.

Mugabe has vowed a crackdown on dissent and blasted judges for "reckless" rulings allowing previous demonstrations.

Promise Mkwananzi, spokesperson for the protest group Tajamuka, said they would march on Saturday, despite the police order.

Peaceful demonstrations 

"The constitution and the high court allow for peaceful demonstrations," he told AFP.

"The police are promoting lawlessness in the country by banning peaceful demonstrations."

Two weeks ago, police detained scores of people, including activists and bystanders, following violent protests in the capital.

"Tensions have been visibly mounting and the momentum for more protest is growing," the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies said in a report this week.

"The state has a limited repertoire of options to respond with, so far falling back on its traditional modes of repressive policing."

Mugabe has vowed to end the wave of recent protests, last weekend warning marchers that they were "playing a dangerous game".

Unemployment is about 90% in Zimbabwe, which has been gripped by a cash shortage worsened by a severe regional drought.



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