Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
SECURITY forces are on high alert and will be out in full force with adequate manpower to thwart any illegal protests meant to destabilise the country.
Police yesterday said people should go about their normal business today as measures are in place to protect the public and property.
This comes as the business sector has condemned protests planned by some opposition elements that are working with some local non-government organisations and embassies in a plot to overthrow Government disguised as anti-corruption protests.
Some of the proponents of today’s protests have since been arrested while others have gone into hiding.
Law enforcement agents said rogue elements must guard against deceiving each other that the security services has endorsed the illegal demonstrations.
Police yesterday started making patrols ahead of today’s planned protests.
In a statement yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi assured that law enforcement agents will be out in full force to enforce Covid-19 regulations.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the public should not be hoodwinked into participating in protests whose agenda has nothing to do with them.
“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 other means. We reiterate that no demonstrations will take place in Zimbabwe on 31st July 2020 (today). Those who decide or disregard the law, particularly national Covid-19 regulations will have themselves to blame,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said police are aware of various attempts to incite the public through social media with one group calling itself 31 July Peaceful Demonstrations threatening to burn a service station in Mvuma and barricade the Harare-Masvingo Highway and all roads leading to police stations.
“The group is led by administrator with the cell number +27653302446 and has 249 group members with some claiming to be in possession of firearms. These will be regarded as terrorists. The security services are also aware of these groups that are spreading fake news that the security services are in support of the 31st July 2020, illegal demonstrations. These are blatant lies meant to confuse the public, cause alarm and despondency in the security services,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
“The security services remain resolute in defence of the country’s security and safety of Zimbabweans.”
He urged members of the public to report at their nearest police station or to members of the security forces conducting patrols in their locality any acts of intimidation, incitements or threats.
The business sector which has in the past heavily suffered following violent protests has criticised violence.
Following violent protests that occurred in January last year that were characterised by looting, some businesses in Bulawayo failed to reopen, leading to loss of jobs.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Matabeleland region president Mr Godwin Muhoni said protests were not progressive and will not change anything.
“Those who are calling for these protests don’t understand the suffering and pain that we are going through as business. We are trying our best to keep things working in an unjust environment of Covid-19. Right now, our biggest enemy is coronavirus that we need to start fighting. Any other issues we need to talk to each other,” said Mr Muhoni.
He said citizens need to come together and discuss issues as opposed to taking to the streets.
Mr Muhoni said after Government imposed Covid-19 regulations, there is little productivity time as operations close at 3PM hence more time cannot be wasted on protests.
Association for Businesses in Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr Victor Nyoni said demonstrations have never worked in the country as they only inflict suffering on business sector.
“As business we stand against any form of disruption of business. Some of our neighbours are yet to recover from what happened in the previous demonstrations. To imagine that a similar thing can take place in itself is a scary thing. We want to let those that are doing it to know that it also scares investors,” said Mr Nyoni.
“It might be appreciated that there may be problems in the country and there are issues of corruption and we think that people must think of a new formula of handling these things since demonstrations in the past have not resolved these problems that are bedeviling us. Yes, we respect people’s rights but we don’t want any disruptions.”
He said at the moment businesses were concerned about stabilising the exchange rate, as opposed to dealing with uncertainty caused by illegal demonstrations.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CIZ) national vice president Mr Joseph Gunda said some business people have failed to recover following violent protests and Covid-19 has negatively impacted on the business operating space.
“Our business environment is already in a desperate situation due to Covid-19 which is causing havoc in companies and industries, affecting our productivity. Anything else on top of that will further worsen the situation. So, don’t believe it would be the right time to have anything of that nature.
“Vandalism of someone’s business, someone’s earning. Someone has invested into a business for years and people just come in and destroy. It is not fair,” said Mr Gunda.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said Zimbabweans need to introspect and establish exactly what they need.
“We should analyse what happened last year. Up to now we have not managed to rebuild; some of the buildings that were destroyed last year, have not been rebuilt. Some of the employees permanently lost their jobs while some business owners were left in debt. As Bulawayo residents let’s look at our environment and ask ourselves whether we want to build or destroy. When we talk about Bulawayo development, what exactly do we mean?” said Minister Ncube.
She said Covid-19 cases were spreading across the city and residents should take conscious decisions before embarking in violent protests.