Ahead of a planned major anti-government protest in Zimbabwe, security forces on Thursday cleared people off streets of the capital Harare.
The security forces were also seen forcing shops to close after the police warned that no demonstrations would be allowed on July 31.
“All security arms of government are on full alert and will deal decisively with any individuals or groups fomenting violence and sending threats or provocative messages through the social media or any other means,” the police statement said.
Zimbabwe’s opposition and Civil Society groups have been mobilizing citizens for a mass protest to demand the release of over a 100,000 people who have been arrested for flouting restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Thousands have also been arrested for not wearing face masks. But the opposition and CSOs are accusing the government of targeting its critics and opponents.
Although the government has denied the claims, the parties and CSOs have planned to hit the streets to demand that President Emmerson Mnangagwa steps down.
Human rights abuse happening now in #Zimbabwe. A soldier beating up a civilian today at a roadblock in #Harare. This is totally unacceptable @MakomboreroH @mdc_norton @uk_mdca @mtkelvin @maDube_ @NicolaWatson13 @MdcAmidlands @MdcMasvingo @Zinasuzim @DavidColtart @TereraiSithole pic.twitter.com/iyIadIksge
— MDC Alliance Mash West (@mdcmashwest) July 30, 2020
Reuters reported on Thursday that armed soldiers and anti-riot police patrolled on foot and in trucks, telling people to leave central Harare.
Soldiers are storming into Harare shops, beating up workers and telling everyone to go back home.
— Team Pachedu 🇿🇼 (@PacheduZW) July 30, 2020
“Why are they forcing shops to close before the stipulated time?” asked one nervous motorist.
Another shop owner told Reuters that “I have no option but to close the shop since the town is now deserted.”
HARARE CBD AT MIDDAY!
This is how its looking in parts of Harare Central Business District at midday Thursday 30 July! pic.twitter.com/sMfIZjF6yE
— Larry Moyo (@larry_moyo) July 30, 2020
Zimbabwe is facing an economic crisis as well as a pandemic and President Mnangagwa is under pressure to perform.