Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has weighed in on the continuing unrest in Zimbabwe after a nationwide strike and series of protests shook President Robert Mugabe’s government.
“Never be governed by fear,” Malema said to the people of Zimbabwe, assuring them the EFF was on their side. Malema said victory was certain for the Zimbabwean people protesting against the Zanu-PF government, which has been in power since 1980 under Mugabe’s leadership.
“We are on the side of the people of Zimbabwe, never be governed by fear. The people always win, like you did in the ’80s. Victory is certain,” said Malema on Twitter.
Meanwhile, supporters of protest leader Evan Mawarire rallied outside the court where he was set to appear after being arrested during a surge of unrest.
Mawarire, a pastor who had been charged with inciting public violence, was an organiser of a one-day nationwide shutdown last week when offices, shops, schools and some government departments stayed closed.
Protest organisers had appealed for Zimbabweans to hold another strike starting yesterday, but their calls were largely unsuccessful. Police were on patrol in Harare after Mawarire, who founded the internet #ThisFlag protest movement, was arrested on Tuesday.
A series of demonstrations in Zimbabwe, where protests have been rare under Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, has been driven by an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and the government struggling to pay its workers on time.
“They made sure that they arrested the people who are most vocal and fearless. That is why the response is not as good as it was last week,” said Onias Marongwa, who works in a grocery store.
A group of youths carrying the Zimbabwean flag, which has become a symbol of protest, had gathered at the magistrate’s court.
In the southeastern town of Masvingo, most shops and offices were also open yesterday.
“The regime’s machinery is very visible,” Takafira Zhou, leader of the Progressive Teachers’ Union in the town, said.
“Today’s response to the strike is low as some people who took part last week had their salaries forfeited and they fear for the worst if they are seen to be defiant.”
A spate of demonstrations have revealed long-bubbling frustration at Mugabe’s regime in a country where 90% of the population are not in formal jobs.
Mawarire was released on Wednesday evening after the Harare Magistrates’ Court found that his arrest was unconstitutional.
Mawarire, who is behind last week’s stayaway, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly inciting violence and disturbing the peace.
Prosecutors tried to change the charge in court to a more serious one of subverting the state, but lawyers argued that such a move was in breach of the constitution.
Hours after the normal court day ended, Harrison Nkomo, who was appearing for Mawarire, continued to argue before magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe that the charges were different to those put to Mawarire when he was arrested at Harare Central Police Station on Tuesday.
The magistrate agreed and ruled that Mawarire’s arrest was unconstitutional. The charges were dropped and the pastor was released and met by thunderous cheers outside court from hundreds of supporters.
– Citizen reporter and AFP