Zimbabwe police prevent planned anti-govt protests
Six people have been “abducted” in Zimbabwe as police prevented planned anti-government protests in the capital Harare and the second city of Bulawayo.
Civil action groups had earlier pledged to try to hold the first demonstration against the government of President Robert Mugabe in several weeks, but high security measures on Friday prevented such a protest action from taking place.
Sylvanos Mudzvova, one of the protest movement leaders, said that fellow activist Patson Dzamara and two others were transferred to the hospital after being kidnapped by unidentified men who dragged them out of their cars.
“Dzamara and two colleagues were taken to the bush where they were beaten up,” Mudzvova said, adding, “Three others are unaccounted for. They were blocked on the road and taken from their cars, which were later found burnt.”
Dzamara was shown in social media photographs lying in the hospital with whip marks on his back. Dzamara claimed security forces were behind the assault, adding, “They said, ‘you did not learn from what we did to your brother. It’s now your turn.'”
Dzamara’s brother was reportedly kidnapped last year and never found.
Witnesses said the police also arrested about 20 people in a square in central Harare.
In the city of Bulawayo, despite the heavy police presence, some activists threw anti-government pamphlets onto the street.
“The state, by deploying uniformed forces, has again thwarted citizens’ right to freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate,” the Zimbabwe Peace Project rights group said in a statement.
Zimbabwe has seen several anti-government protests this year, with the demonstrators calling for President Mugabe to step down. Police usually use force to break up the demonstrations, beating up people and reporters.
The opposition says the 92-year-old president has failed to properly address issues such as economic decline, mass unemployment and emigration in Zimbabwe while accusations have also been leveled about the repression of dissent and vote-rigging during his tenure.
Mugabe, who regularly appears in public, has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. He intends to stand again in the upcoming election.
In August, Mugabe vowed to fight back and crack down on protest leaders.