Zimbabwe opposition vows to defy protest ban


Nationwide demonstrations erupted in January following a crippling strike over an increase in the price of fuelImage copyright
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Nationwide demonstrations erupted in January following a crippling strike over an increase in the price of fuel

Zimbabwe’s main opposition group has said it will hold anti-government protests in the capital Harare, in defiance of a police ban.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called for protests against the government’s handling of the economy.

The MDC has said it has given the authorities assurances the protests will be peaceful.

But police say they have evidence the protests will be violent.

A “prohibition notice” banning the demonstrations has been issued by authorities in Harare’s central district, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said.

“The police will be conducting patrols, surveillance, stop-and-searches to ensure law and order is maintained in all areas of the country,” he added.

In response, an MDC official told Reuters news agency that the party was not aware of the prohibition order and the demonstrations would take place as planned.

The official said, given the party had complied with law by notifying police of the protests, it expected them to “ensure there is peace”.

What’s the background?

If the protests do go ahead, they will be the first since rallies against fuel price increases in January led to deadly clashes with troops.

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Media captionRoads were barricaded by protesters in demonstrations over high fuel prices in January

In recent months, Zimbabwe’s economy has deteriorated, feeding into wider grievances with the ruling Zanu-PF party under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr Mnangagwa swept to power in November 2017 after long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup.

He called elections, held the following year on 30 July, which he won. On the campaign trail, he promised democratic reforms and economic recovery after years of decline under Mr Mugabe.

But the mood of hope and change in the wake of Mr Mugabe’s removal from power has diminished as Zimbabwe’s economy has faltered.

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to resuscitate the country’s struggling economy

Opposition groups feel that the president is failing to live up to his promises following his election in disputed polls.

There are fears, however, that protests in Harare and other major cities will lead to another police crackdown akin to January’s.

In those protests, at least 12 people were killed and many more beaten by security forces, local human rights groups said.

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