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Fears of fresh unrest as Zimbabwe’s opposition plan protests

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Zimbabweans are bracing for fresh unrest after the main opposition party unveiled plans for a series of major rallies starting this week and unions called for strike action.

Any demonstrations or industrial action will pose a new test for the ruling Zanu-PF party, which brutally suppressed a round of protests in January, leading to at least 13 deaths and hundreds of rapes and beatings.

Last month senior Zanu-PF officials said the constitution allowed the government to deploy the army to confront protesters and warned that soldiers were trained to kill. “Forewarned is forearmed,” one said, telling demonstrators to stay at home.

The opposition campaign comes as the government imposes austerity measures and attempts to launch a new currency. Millions have been hit by soaring prices of food and fuel, while foreign exchange shortages have led to a lack of vital medicines and other goods.

Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said it was time to throw off “the yoke of bondage” of Zanu-PF, which has ruled for nearly four decades.

“We now need to do the work, roll up our sleeves and we, as a people, be our own liberators; be our own answers; be our own solutions,” he said.
Obert Masaraure, the leader of a union representing 30,000 teachers in impoverished rural areas, said his members were not intimidated.

“We remain in the trenches and will continue to fight … We will be on the streets very soon to push the government to address this issue,” he told the Guardian. “They are celebrating budget surpluses but they are not paying workers, there are no hospital medicines. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Lawyers on Wednesday morning reported the overnight abduction and severe beating of a human rights activist by six unidentified armed men.

The protests, scheduled to start on 16 August, come over a year since Emmerson Mnangagwa won a closely fought election promising investment, transparency and “good days ahead” for the former British colony.
Mnangagwa took power after a military takeover ousted the veteran ruler Robert Mugabe in November 2017. Mugabe, 95, is receiving medical treatment in Singapore.
Zimbabwe is crippled by massive debts incurred during Mugabe’s rule and needs a multibillion-dollar bailout to prevent economic collapse. However, continuing repression and a lack of tangible political reform means there is little chance of international institutions offering major aid packages.

Though most of several hundred people detained during the unrest in January have been released, 21 activists, opposition leaders and trade unionists are facing subversion charges which could lead to lengthy sentences.

Masaraure, who has been arrested five times since December, was charged with subversion in January and rearrested in June when he failed to report to police, spending five days in prison.

“There were 54 people on the floor of one room, with one blanket. The prison [clothes] were full of lice. I got sick with a chest problem,” he said.

He says the harassment has continued. The 35-year-old says he has twice been abducted from his home in the capital, Harare, and assaulted by unidentified men who he believes were state agents, most recently in June after he organised another strike. He said eight men had taken him from his house in an unmarked car to waste ground on the outskirts of the capital where he was stripped naked, beaten with rubber whips and then left by the roadside.

“I am afraid one day I will lose my life. I am afraid for my mother, for my family. The trauma is terrible and the government is reckless, reckless against its own people,” he said.

In August 2018 six people were killed when the army cleared protesters from the centre of Harare at gunpoint. Some victims who survived the shootings are seeking compensation and justice with a class action against security forces.

Lovedale Munesi, a college teacher, needs $7,000 for an operation to remove a bullet lodged near his pelvis, restricting his mobility and causing severe pain. Forced to give up work, he is now dependent on painkillers and on his relatives.

“If I don’t get assistance any time soon, there may be no hope that I will ever work again. Life is very tough now,” the 30-year-old said.

Alison Charles last saw her brother Gavin the night before he was shot dead. The 51-year-old made a living selling fish in the central market area and was hit twice in the back, probably as he and hundreds of other stallholders, shoppers and commuters ran from advancing troops.

“The money is not important. I want justice … I walked with him to school every day. He held my hand. We don’t even know the identity of the soldier who shot him,” Charles said.

Gen Anselem Sanyatwe, the commander of the unit responsible for the killings, was forced to resign by Mnangagwa and has since been appointed an ambassador to Tanzania.

Energy Mutodi, the deputy information minister, said this was “appropriate action”.

“We have an opposition that is very imaginative in trying to create anarchy and to portray the government as violent … As a young democracy, we are learning but we don’t need to be punished for following our learning curve,” Mutodi said.

Sanyatwe has been placed under sanctions by the US.

Mnangagwa appointed a commission headed by a retired South African judge to investigate the killings. Its report, though critical of security forces, described police overwhelmed by a large and violent demonstration by opposition activists, leading to the army’s intervention. This account contrasts with the recollections of many witnesses and the Guardian’s own reporting at the time.

Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer in Harare, said the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for the August 2018 killings raised serious concerns for the future.

“We can see a buildup now with government ministers normalising the idea that it is OK to deploy the army against protests and use live ammunition. By failing to deal with past atrocities, the likelihood of future atrocities is very apparent,” he said. The Guardian

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Robert Mugabe’s family rejects government burial plans

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The family of Robert Mugabe has said he will be buried in his home town in private, in an apparent snub to the government, which wants to inter him at a national monument.

Leo Mugabe, a nephew of Zimbabwe’s late ruler, said the ceremony would probably be held early next week in Zvimba district, about 60 miles (95km) north-west of the capital, Harare. “That is the decision of the family since last night unless something changes,” he told the Guardian.

Many of Mugabe’s relatives oppose government plans for the funeral and burial of the man who ruled the country for nearly 40 years before he was ousted in a military takeover in 2017.

The ruling Zanu-PF party announced that Mugabe’s remains would be interred at a hilltop monument outside Harare on Sunday, after a ceremony at the nearby national stadium on Saturday, where dozens of prominent African leaders would be present.

However, friends and allies of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, have said he made clear he would prefer to be buried in Zvimba with only close relatives in attendance. They said Mugabe did not want his death to be exploited by his successors for political gain.

A meeting on Thursday between Mugabe’s family and officials at his home in Harare ended without agreement. Walter Chidhakwa, a spokesman for the family, said the funeral would go ahead but not the planned burial.

Earlier, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe as president, said he had appealed to the family to set aside any bitterness. They are reportedly unhappy about his treatment of the former leader.

“Let bygones be bygones. The family is going to lead the programme, that’s why we haven’t released anything. We haven’t agreed how he will be buried,” Mnangagwa said.

The president, a veteran of the ruling Zanu-PF party and a decades-long close associate of Mugabe, said: “We will have to sit down first with Grace. As the government, there’s nothing we will do to go against your wishes. Let’s unite, he was our father.”

Mugabe died in a clinic in Singapore last week, aged 95. His body arrived on Wednesday, on a government-chartered private jet, at Zimbabwe’s main airport, where thousands of supporters had gathered.

On Thursday his casket was taken to a sports stadium in Harare, where thousands of onlookers packed the stands to see Mugabe lie in state for public viewing.

Several people were injured in a crush as they surged forward to try to view the casket. Some people were carried away on stretchers. The severity of their injuries wasn’t immediately clear.

Riot police later restored order, at times using batons to strike those waiting in a line.

Grace Mugabe sat on the podium to the side of the sports field while Mugabe’s casket was under a tent at the centre of the field. A military helicopter later landed on the field and took off after the coffin was placed inside.

Though much of his 37 years in power were marked by violence, economic mismanagement and corruption, the former guerrilla fighter is still revered as a liberation leader. Many in Zimbabwe see him as a national hero, remembering his role in the war against white rule. The Guardian

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Stampede at Mugabe’s memorial at Rufaro Stadium

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Stampede at Robert Mugabe’s memorial

Several people have reportedly been injured in a stampede at the viewing event for founding Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, as those in attendance jostled in an attempt to see the late leader’s body.

Prior to this, it was reported that Mugabe’s body had arrived at Rufaro Stadium in Harare where the ceremony is taking place on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier, the body was taken to Mugabe’s Harare villa, known as the Blue Roof for its blue pagoda-style structure, where family and supporters gathered to mourn.

His body has since been laid out for the public at the stadium and will later be transported to his homestead Zvimba for a wake.

Thousands are in attendance to pay tribute to the former leader.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre monument.
These plans were rejected by the late former president’s family, who say the body will be displayed in his home village of Kutama on Sunday night, adding that he will then be buried in a private ceremony.

“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night followed by a private burial – either Monday or Tuesday – no National Heroes’ Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,” Mugabe’s nephew Leo told the AFP news agency.

In a statement, the family said: “We note with extreme concern the manner with which the government of Zimbabwe has developed the programme for the funeral of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe without consulting his immediate family, who were tasked with communicating his last wishes in regard to his funeral and burial.

“As his immediate family, we have also observed with a shock that the government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, which is contrary to his wishes on how he wished to have his mortal remains interred.

“As the immediate family of the late Mugabe, we are ready and willing to work with the government of Zimbabwe to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred.

“One of the wishes that Mugabe indicated was that his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe, must never leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings while in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.

“To that end, we confirm that honourable Walter Chidakwa may communicate our position with relevant authorities to ensure that we develop a programme that conforms to the wishes of the late Mugabe. We have also tasked honourable Patrick Zhuwao to disseminate this statement.”

Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including a vice president flew to Singapore to bring him home.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro, and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, said Zimbabwe’s presidency.The Citizen

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Robert Mugabe’s body returns to Zimbabwe

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Robert Mugabe’s body has arrived home to Zimbabwe amid a flurry of controversy over his final resting place that underscores the bitter divisions between his family and the ruling party that turned against him.

Grace Mugabe, the tyrannical leader’s second wife, was met off the plane carrying the coffin, by President Mnangagwa, who replaced her husband after the 2017 soft coup that ended his 37 years of ruinous rule.

The body of Zimbabwe’s founding president, who died at a private clinic in Singapore last week at the age of 95, will be displayed before a public funeral service in the capital Harare on Saturday, which will be attended by a number of heads of state.

The location for his burial, scheduled for Sunday, has yet to be confirmed and risks embarrassing Mr Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s feared enforcer for half a century until he moved against him.

It is reported that before his death, an embittered Mugabe gave orders that he wished to be buried with family members in their rural village and not at Hero’s Acre, the national resting place he had built in the capital for heroes of the liberation war against the white minority rule.

Mr Mnangagwa, 76, is said to be applying pressure on the Mugabe family for the burial to take place in Harare as any other plan would humiliate him and the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Robert Mugabe’s body arrived mid-afternoon at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, which was funded by the Chinese government. A military guard of honour stood at attention as the coffin was removed from the aircraft, draped in the national flag and accompanied by security chiefs.

“The entire nation of Zimbabwe, our people, across the board are grieved and are in mourning because the light which led us to independence is no more, but his works, his ideology will continue to guide this nation,” Mr Mnangagwa said from a podium set up under a white gazebo on the tarmac.

Mrs Mugabe, 54, was seated nearby, inscrutable under her thick veil. Her public falling out with Mr Mnangagwa has raised doubts about whether she will be able to live comfortably in Zimbabwe without the protection of her husband’s status.

At her side were her daughter Bona and Savior Kasukuwere, a former Mugabe-era cabinet minister and staunch ally who has been living in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

Crowds had gathered at the airport well before the scheduled arrival time, with some wearing T-shirts bearing Mugabe’s face and others with Mr Mnangagwa’s image, while music blared from loudspeakers. The Times.

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