Political Demonstrations in Zimbabwe 2016
Zimbabwe has been characterised by a number of political demonstrations that have been aimed at the Zanu-PF government. Ordinary Zimbabweans have taken to the streets to demonstrate against corruption, misuse of public funds, lack of government accountability, the introduction of bond notes and unemployment among other issues. Below is a list of demonstrations in 2016.
Occupy Africa Unity Square
Leaders of three human rights pressure groups engaged in a 16 day and 16 night occupation of Africa Unity Square in June in Harare to demand solutions to a number of challenges facing Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Activists Alliance (ZAA), Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance (ZWIPA), and the Occupy Africa Unity Square Movement (OAUS) began their demonstration Tuesday 31 May, with eight activists staging an all-night vigil in the Africa Unity Square.
Mphoko Must Go Demonstration
Members of Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign together with the National Vendors Union and Restoration of Human Rights held a demonstration at Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare in June 2016 against Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko's continued stay in the hotel. Stanley Zvorwadza who leads the National Vendors Union and another unidentified activist were arrested by the police. Zvorwadza was released on $200 bail and remanded to July 13 for trail.
Shut Down Zimbabwe
Following the protests by transport operators, there were calls for the people of Zimbabwe to stay away on Wednesday 6 July as a way of demonstrating. Messages circulated across various social media platforms encouraging Zimbabweans to participate and not to go to work or open shop. This Flag Movement founder Pastor Evan Mawarire posted a video on various social network platforms appealing to Zimbabweans to support the protest which came to be identified as #ShutDownZim. In the video, the cleric also encouraged Zimbabweans to pray for the country.
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There were also calls by former Vice President Joice Mujuru for peaceful demonstrations. In her address at a press conference, Mujuru said that law enforcement agents should remember that the "demonstrators are the government that the police and other security agents should be protecting"
Those demonstrating, she said, should respect the rights of others including the security agents who are supposed to be protecting them. Mujuru also said that instead of suppressing the demonstrations, government needs to address the causes of the problems facing the country.
Here's a video of her press conference:
The Zimbabwean government encouraged civil servants and other workers to report for work as usual.On Wednesday 6 July 2016, Zimbabweans from all walks of life heeded the call to stay away in demonstration. The demonstrations however turned violent in some parts of the country such as Bulawayo and Mufakose as police clashed with civilians.
WhatsApp Service Disruption
The social media application WhatsApp ceased to function for four hours and there was speculation that it might have been blocked. WhatsApp was not working on the following networks: TelOne, Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe, ZOL Zimbabwe, Telecel, Econet and NetOne.
The Minister for Information Communication Technology, Supa Mandiwanzira denied government involvement. He went on to note that government was under pressure from internet service providers to ban WhatsApp,
"Since December last year this ministry has been under pressure from mobile network operators in the country to ban, over the top services like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and the like because the operators are claiming that these over the top services are eating through their revenue, and they have not spent a cent in building their networks."
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) issued a press statement warning citizens on the abuse of social media. The stay away had been mainly communicated through social media. The statement mentions how anyone who is caught creating or sharing subversive content through telecommunications platforms can be arrested. POTRAZ’s statement echoes the sentiments shared by the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, who has warned Zimbabweans against social media abuse. You can read the statement here.
Commenting on the coincidence of the release of the press statement on a day a protest had been called using social media, Mandiwanzira said,
"There are elements which have been abusing social media by sending information on how to make bombs, how to kill, pornography or even child pornography and the regulator has a responsibility of warning people of such abuse of tools like social media."
Police are reported to have made 36 arrests including 14 white people who were arrested in Matebeleland North Province as well as a Belgian national who was arrested in Victoria Falls. Occupy Africa Unity Square activist Linda Masarira was also arrested with 19 other people in the Harare suburbs of Mufakose and Budiriro. Masarira was accused of throwing stones and burning stalls of innocent vendors.
Call for another stay away
This Flag Movement coordinator Pastor Evan Mawarire called for another #ShutDownZim protest the following week on Wednesday and Thursday if government does not meet demands such as dealing with corruption, injustice and poverty. The cleric also congratulated Zimbabweans for heeding the call to stay away. He also condemned violence and encouraged members of the public to desist from violent demonstrations and destruction of property. You can watch the video below:
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- Zimbabwe pressure groups stage 16 days, 16 nights occupation of Africa Unity Square, Mail & Guardian, published: June 1, 2016, retrieved: August 29, 2016
- Thomas Chiripasi, Two Arrested In Protest To Oust Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko From Hotel "Home",VOA Zimbabwe, published: June 24, 2016, retrieved: July 5, 2016
- Helen Kadirire,Get out of hotel: Zimbos warn Mphoko, Daily News, published: June 28, 2016, retrieved: July 5, 2016
- Business as usual, Govt tells workers, Herald, published: July 6, 2016, retrieved: July 7, 2016
- L.S.M Makani, Update: WhatsApp not working in Zimbabwe on some networks. May have been blocked, TechZim, published: July 6, 2016, July 6, 2016
- Paidamoyo Chipunza, We had no part in yesterday's WhatsApp jam-Minister, Herald, published: July 7, 2016, retrieved: July 7, 2016
- 36 nabbed over demos, Herald, published: July 7, 2016, retrieved: July 7, 2016