Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched through Harare on Thursday under close surveillance by armed police in the first rally since a deadly crackdown on an election protest in August.
Singing and waving placards denouncing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule, the protesters gathered in the centre of the Zimbabwean capital to hear speeches ahead of a march.
The event, which was held with police approval, was organised by the main opposition MDC party, which says it was cheated of victory in the July 30 election, eight months after long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted.
In a mass demonstration two days later, six people died when security forces opened fire on the protesters, undermining Mnangagwa’s efforts to present the election as a fresh start for the nation after years of repression under Mugabe years.
“Mnangagwa must go,” read one banner at Thursday’s protest alongside others reading “You stole my vote, please give it back” as well as slogans demanding justice over the August 1 shootings.
Much of the marchers’ anger was focused on Zimbabwe’s renewed economic problems, with people struggling to cope with dramatic price rises and shortages of essentials like bread, cooking oil and petrol.
“We are here to demonstrate against the economic crisis and the election that was stolen,” said Donald Bango, a security guard. “There are no jobs. The current government is not doing anything to fix our problems,” he told AFP.
Marching through the rain, the protesters chanted praise for MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who claims he is the rightful winner of the election.
“Prices of basic commodities are going up and we cannot access drugs from pharmacies,” said Rachel Chakanetsa, a widow who was at the demonstration.
“We are in dire poverty. The situation must be addressed urgently.” Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was forced to resign by the military in November 2017, promised to revive the ruined economy after he won the disputed election.
The latest bout of economic strife erupted last month when the government announced a two-percent tax on all electronic transactions to increase revenue.
Many Zimbabweans rely on electronic payments as US dollars, which function as the country’s main currency, are scarce, with hardly anyone trusting the local “bond note” currency.
Mugabe’s 37-year reign was marked by corruption and mismanagement that led to an exodus of investors, mass emigration and collapse of many public services.
Mnangagwa recently said Mugabe, 94, was in Singapore for treatment and was unable to walk due to ill health and old age. —AFP