SHUT­DOWN FLOPS

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Pamela Shumba and Whins­ley Masara in Bu­l­awayo, Tendai Mu­gabe and Elita Chik­wati in Harare

A SHUT­DOWN called by some shad­owy groups and agents of il­le­gal regime change seek­ing to cause anar­chy and desta­bil­i­sa­tion in the coun­try yes­ter­day was a mon­u­men­tal flop after Zim­bab­weans ig­nored it and went about their nor­mal busi­ness.

The calls for the shut­down were cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia with threats of vi­o­lence to peace lov­ing Zim­bab­weans if they dared to defy the call.

It was busi­ness as usual in ev­ery cor­ner of Bu­l­awayo with po­lice keep­ing an eye to main­tain law and or­der.

The Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs, Dr Ig­natius Chombo, com­mended the peo­ple of Bu­l­awayo for ig­nor­ing calls to take to the streets that were cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

“I’m happy that the peo­ple of Bu­l­awayo ig­nored the so-called demon­stra­tions which are be­ing spon­sored by op­po­si­tion par­ties and the West. They went about their busi­ness as usual and I want to com­mend them for the pa­tri­otic stance,” said Dr Chombo.

He said his min­istry would not tol­er­ate un­sanc­tioned demon­stra­tions any­where in the coun­try and po­lice were pre­pared to as­sist any­one who felt dis­turbed by such ac­tions.

“We’ve clearly stated be­fore as the Min­istry re­spon­si­ble for law and or­der in the coun­try that there are some op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties and as­so­ciate groups that are ag­i­tat­ing for vi­o­lence and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to en­gage in vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties for a num­ber of rea­sons.

“We made it clear that we’re not go­ing to tol­er­ate unau­tho­rised demon­stra­tions that will dis­rupt law and or­der in the coun­try. Po­lice have been ad­vised to take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion against all demon­stra­tions that have not been au­tho­rised,” said Dr Chombo.

The Bu­l­awayo demon­stra­tions were pub­li­cised on some so­cial me­dia fo­rums and sched­uled to be­gin at 10AM at the Large City Hall.

Two com­muter om­nibuses which had brought dozens of youths to the City Hall quickly made a U–turn after notic­ing they would not suc­ceed as the place was manned by armed an­tiriot po­lice.

When The Chron­i­cle ar­rived at the City Hall, the com­muter om­nibuses were speed­ing off with youths who were wear­ing and wav­ing re­galia writ­ten Bu­l­awayo Youths Arise (BUYA).

A po­lice source said two youths were ar­rested in the af­ter­noon for dis­turb­ing peace.

“One of youths tried to re­sist ar­rest by jump­ing off a po­lice truck. We caught up with him and he was ar­rested,” said the source.

Act­ing Bu­l­awayo pro­vin­cial spokesper­son As­sis­tant In­spec­tor Abed­nico Ncube yes­ter­day re­ferred ques­tions to na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Paul Ny­athi who could not be reached for com­ment.

Some shad­owy groups have been un­so­licited text mes­sages, e-mails and post­ing sub­ver­sive mes­sages on so­cial net­work­ing sites such as Face­book and What­sApp in the hope of get­ting Bu­l­awayo res­i­dents to en­gage in demon­stra­tions.

The MDC-T has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions tried to rally peo­ple to en­gage in street demon­stra­tions in Bu­l­awayo and these have all flopped.

In Harare, a sur­vey by our Harare Bureau showed that peo­ple send­ing ig­nored the call and it was busi­ness as usual in the cap­i­tal. In the Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict, re­tail shops and banks were open do­ing their usual busi­ness. Par­ents were also seen buy­ing uni­forms in prepa­ra­tion for the open­ing of schools next week. The sit­u­a­tion was the same in the in­for­mal sec­tor with pop­u­lar mar­kets such as Mupedzan­hamo, Gulf Com­plex and the Glen View fur­ni­ture com­plex open­ing for busi­ness. No case of vi­o­lence was re­ported. There was a mini bus that was burnt un­der un­clear cir­cum­stances along Bu­l­awayo Road in the early hours of yes­ter­day. Po­lice said they had not re­ceived a re­port in re­la­tion to that in­ci­dent and it could not be as­cer­tained if it was re­lated to the sup­posed shut­down. Small and Medium En­ter­prises and Co-op­er­a­tive De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Sithem­biso Ny­oni (pic­tured) slammed the protesters who de­stroyed prop­erty in Harare last week. Said Min­is­ter Ny­oni: “It’s not fair for protesters to burn the wares of small busi­ness­peo­ple and ven­dors. These are peo­ple who are try­ing to make a de­cent liv­ing. The ven­dors are do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make an hon­est liv­ing. By burn­ing their wares, you are push­ing them into poverty. They also have the right to sell their wares peace­fully and imag­ine, some of them could have bor­rowed the money to start their busi­nesses. How do you ex­pect them to pay back if you burn their prod­ucts?”

Re­tail­ers and ven­dors who spoke to our Harare Bureau said protests were ret­ro­gres­sive and would not bring any food to their ta­bles.

A ven­dor Mr Si­las Map­fumo said the so-called shut­down was counter-pro­duc­tive.

“What do you get from protest­ing? At the end of the day, you will go back home and re­alise you want to eat. It’s bet­ter to en­gage in in­come-gen­er­at­ing projects that bring food to the ta­ble. Soon, schools will be open­ing and chil­dren re­quire fees. “How will I be able to pay the fees if I don’t sell my wares?” Or­di­nary cit­i­zens who were do­ing their busi­ness in the CBD said it was their demo­cratic right to en­gage in their busi­nesses with­out fear.

Abigail Kanyenze from Kuwadzana said: “I’ve ev­ery right to travel. What if I’m go­ing to seek treat­ment at the hospi­tal? What if I’m at­tend­ing a funeral?

“Time doesn’t wait for stay­aways and demon­stra­tions. These du­bi­ous calls will be­come ir­rel­e­vant be­cause Zim­bab­weans have now re­alised that they are be­ing taken for a ride by a few in­di­vid­u­als who are ben­e­fit­ing from them.”

Last week MDC-T linked groups en­gaged in vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions that re­sulted in de­struc­tion of prop­erty in Harare.

Two ve­hi­cles be­long­ing to the Zim­babwe Broad­cast­ing Co­op­er­a­tion and the po­lice were burnt dur­ing the protests.

The protesters also de­stroyed shops and looted goods worth thou­sands of dol­lars.

Some of the ring-lead­ers of the protests were ar­rested and are now be­fore the courts.

Although there were no cases of vi­o­lence, po­lice main­tained a heavy pres­ence in the city. See Com­ment on Page 4

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