While peaceful democratic elections are in progress in neigbouring South Africa seeking the long needed end of the ruling ANC, protests against President Robert Mugabe’s policies are on the rise in Zimbabwe, with shops and other businesses being forced to close down earlier today after police battles against demonstrators seeking to petition parliament and treasury against the currency and loss of jobs.
The protest action today was the latest to disrupt economic activity and business operations after mass stay aways in June forced companies to close down. This morning the #tajamuka pressure group and #thisgown grouping of unemployed graduates protested around Harare’s business district. But the peaceful nature of the protests was short-lived after police broke up the marchers as they approached parliament, firing teargas and beating up everyone around. “Things are now out of hand and we have had to close down; looting could start and our equipment and property can get damaged,” said a waitress at a restaurant in central Harare. Other businesses that had to close down include petrol filling stations such as Puma and Total Zimbabwe. The protestors grabbed chairs and empty crates as well as debris such as stones and bricks and hit back at the police.
Some vehicles were damaged in the running battles while a branch of Standard Chartered also had to close its doors. The protestors wanted to deliver a petition to parliament on behalf of unemployed university graduates who were wearing their graduation gowns. Earlier, the protestors had delivered another petition against the introduction of bond notes to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s office. Police observed the protestors as they sang and demonstrated in front of the finance ministry but did not disrupt the process. “All we want from life is to be able to feed our families and to be able to send our children to school so that they can get jobs. We want them to work in Zimbabwe, not outside the country as it is now,” said the protestors in an open letter.
In their petition they demanded that the government shelve its plans to introduce the bond notes which are set for introduction in October. Zimbabwe is battling sustained economic meltdown that has seen the informal sector grow, imports balloon and productivity nose-dive.