/ 15 April 2008

Zim opposition strikers face police crackdown

Zimbabwe opposition supporters face the prospect of a heavy crackdown by security forces on Tuesday if they heed a call to launch a general strike to show their disgust at long-delayed election results.

Police have been deployed throughout the country in anticipation of the strike called by Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition in a bid to pressurise the country’s electoral commission (ZEC) to release presidential election results.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been accused by police of trying to cause mayhem with the strike, launched on the back of a failed court bid to force the release of the March 29 presidential poll.

National police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said police had been deployed throughout the country and ”those who breach the peace will be dealt with severely and firmly”.

”The call by the MDC-Tsvangirai faction is aimed at disturbing peace and will be resisted firmly by the law-enforcement agents, whose responsibility is to maintain law and order in any part of the country,” he said.

The impact of any general strike is likely to be muted as unemployment is already running at more than 80%.

Previous stayaways called by the opposition and its allies in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions have flopped with few of the people still in work wanting to risk a day’s pay.

However, the opposition is aware that President Robert Mugabe still exerts an iron grip over the security forces and is wary of sending its supporters on to the streets to protest the current impasse.

Police have banned all political rallies.


In March last year Tsvangirai himself sustained serious head injuries as the government cracked down on opposition attempts to stage an anti-government rally.

Tensions have been steadily mounting in the Southern African nation over the poll, which Tsvangirai says he won outright while Mugabe’s ruling party is preparing for a run-off.

In a further sign of mounting unrest, the opposition claimed that one of its election agents had been stabbed to death by Mugabe supporters over the weekend in what it claimed was the first politically motivated killing since the polls.

Police confirmed that the agent, Tapiwa Mubwanda, had been killed but said the motive had yet to be established.

A petition by the MDC to get the High Court to call for the ZEC to immediately declare the outcome was on Monday dismissed with costs by Justice Tendai Uchena.

This was a double blow to the opposition after a summit of Southern African leaders in Zambia at the weekend merely called for results to be announced ”expeditiously”, without criticising the Zimbabwean government or Mugabe.

Now the MDC is relying on the strike, as the two parties trade vote-rigging allegations and challenges to the parliamentary election result.

The MDC on Monday launched a court bid to challenge the result of 60 parliamentary seats won by Zanu-PF, and is also challenging the ZEC’s decision to recount 23 constituencies, which could overthrow their parliamentary majority.

”The power is in our hands. Zimbabweans have been taken for granted for too long. We demand that the presidential election results be announced now,” read MDC flyers calling on everyone from bus drivers to street vendors to join in. — AFP