By Alex Bell
01 March 2011
Security crackdowns in Harare and Bulawayo have deterred any mass action against the ZANU PF regime, with no sign of the mass protests that have been encouraged over the past two weeks.
Online campaigns that have been circulated by email and on the social networking website Facebook, called on Zimbabweans to take part in a ‘Million Citizens March’ on Tuesday. The protest was meant to start at Harare Gardens and spread countrywide. The aim of the protest was to call for Robert Mugabe to step down from power, just like similar civil uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
But Harare was quiet on Tuesday, with only one report emerging of attempts at protest action. The report sent by email, said police had foiled the start of a small protest by trying to detain the leaders. No arrests were reported. Facebook users supporting the ‘Million Citizen March’ meanwhile wrote that protest action was foiled by the presence of soldiers. One man wrote on Tuesday afternoon that “it looks like most uniformed troops have been withdrawn from the streets. Just a few left in isolated corners. It however remains very risky to attempt anything now as we are not sure if the other people loitering in civilian clothes are truly civilians.”
SW Radio Africa’s correspondent in the capital, Simon Muchemwa, said that the day was “just a normal day,” explaining that “the heavy police presence we have seen this week has clearly discouraged people from protesting.”
Heavily armed soldiers and riot police were seen arriving in military vehicles in the city centre near Harare gardens on Monday, while water-cannons were also seen on the streets. Muchemwa said there were less security officers on the streets on Tuesday, but explained how a number of police officials had been patrolling the streets overnight.
“The intimidation has been going on for some time. So I think people are not confident about protests at the moment. It would be tantamount to putting themselves in serious danger,” Muchemwa said.
An increased number of military and police officials have also been witnessed in Bulawayo. SW Radio Africa’s Lionel Saungweme reported on Tuesday that armed riot police and military personnel have been patrolling in high density areas, and on Monday intimidated a number of street vendors. Saungweme said that “this is all in response to talk of Egypt style protests.”
Meanwhile according to the Bulawayo Agenda civic group, two people were called in by Gwanda police for merely discussing events in Libya. The two were driving from Bulawayo to Gwanda when they picked up a passenger along the way while discussing the subject. The passenger went on to report them at Gwanda Police Station, leading to them being called in.
“The two were also called in to explain why they were playing a Kwaito Music Tune called ‘Imot’ etshontshimali’- meaning a car that steals money. This name has been given to the infamous BMW cars being driven by traffic cops who are known for their asking for bribes,” Bulawayo Agenda said.