Harare – As if to reignite fears that elements designated the term “third force” aligned to the ruling party Zanu-PF were behind the violent scenes during peaceful street protests by citizen social pressure groups, a vendors’ union has dissociated itself from the queer riots that erupted in the city late Tuesday morning, September 27, 2017.
A group claiming to be vendors were moving about indiscriminately stoning passers-by and shops, loudly claiming to be vendors as they did so, with police reaction coming uncharacteristically late and reluctant.
Yet, the same group stoned the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ)’s head offices putting the organisation’s staff under siege.
NAVUZ has since officially denied arranging any protest action.
However, police were reportedly harassing people at Harvest House – the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) – and fired teargas.
The ploy is suspected to be aimed at denying people the constitutional right to demonstrate and petition, and freedom of assembly by raising fears of violence.
It is now suspected that the group of youths armed with stones were the ones behind the burning of vendors’ properties yesterday evening after an earlier clash between vendors and the municipal police.
During demonstrations organised by social pressure groups #Tajamuka/Sesjikile and the National Electoral Reforms Agenda, there were fears that agent provocateurs were out to tarnish the peaceful protests and find grounds to crackdown on citizens’ right to demonstrate and petition.
The concern emerged after suspicious acts of violence erupted which became the basis of arresting the leaders of the protests, unknown people pretending to be protestors abducted activists, and there were allegations of violent militias wearing uniforms of law enforcers.
The police immediately used the excuse of violence to declare what analysts called a “soft state of emergency” through Statutory Instrument 101a of 2016 that banned any protests in Harare before a High Court order overturned it.
Equally, President Robert Mugabe has used the excuse of violence to lash out at the judiciary and labeling the actions of the courts as “reckless” for granting court orders upholding the constitutional right to protest to citizen pressure groups.
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