6. July 2016

Zimbabwe shuts down in peaceful protest against corruption

Zimbabweans have stayed at home and foreign banks and most businesses in the capital, Harare, have shut down operations in one of the biggest – and most peaceful – stay-away actions in nearly a decade.
The national stay-away day in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, fronted by the social media movement ?#ThisFlag, came after violent clashes between taxi drivers and police on Monday that led to the arrest of 95 people. It coincides with a strike by doctors, teachers and nurses over delayed salaries.
The southern African nation, ruled by president Robert Mugabe, has been gripped by a devastating drought, adding to high unemployment and an acute shortage of cash that has angered its citizens.
#ThisFlag was started in April by the Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire, 39, to protest against the government “for allowing corruption, injustice and poverty”. The campaign has attracted thousands of followers who have been speaking out against government excesses. The stay-away day was organised via Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Mawarire told Reuters: “We have got to a point now where everyone is saying enough is enough. The response has been outstanding ... this is what we all needed, something that we can all do together.”.
The state telecoms regulator Potraz said in a statement it would arrest people sending “subversive” messages that cause unrest.
In the volatile township of Mufakose, west of Harare, hundreds of youths barricaded roads to stop people from going to work, witnesses said. The police arrested a dozen people.Local branches of Barclays and Standard Chartered shut their doors in central Harare, while clothing retailers Edgars Stores and Truworths also closed stores.
Siyaso, one of the biggest and oldest informal markets in Mbare township near central Harare, was also closed and there were few vehicles on Harare’s roads. Government departments were open, while supermarkets including Pick ’n’ Pay, OK Zimbabwe and Choppies reported low business.A supervisor at an OK Zimbabwe store in the central business district said: “As you can see there are very few customers here. It is not usual for a Wednesday to have these small volumes.”
Local private media said Zimbabweans in other major cities had also stayed at home, with most businesses closed. Zimbabwe last witnessed a stay-away in April 2007.
Mugabe attended a scheduled meeting with his senior Zanu-PF executive during the stay-away on Wednesday. The party spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo, declined to say whether Zanu-PF would discuss the recent protests.(The Guardian, London)

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