Zimbabwe marred by unrest, businesses call for end to protests | Africa | DW | 01.09.2016

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Zimbabwe marred by unrest, businesses call for end to protests

Businesses in Zimbabwe have raised concerns about the damage to property following Wednesday's failed stay-at-home protest. The ruling ZANU-PF party blames foreign embassies for the unrest.

It was business as usual in central Harare on Wednesday and major services were in operation. Many had anticipated an outbreak of violence following calls by civil society activists to shut down the country. However, many Zimbabweans did not heed the calls.

Zimbabwe has witnessed a rise in social unrest in the last four months as citizens increasingly speak out against President Robert Mugabe's government. But critics say the civic movements and opposition parties lack good strategies when organizing their protests.

"All is not well in the Zimbabwean systems; be it on the part of the ruling party or of the opposition," said political analyst Alexander Rusero. Rusero criticized the civil society groups behind the protest movements for failing to unite themselves against the ruling party.

"If someone would seize this opportune moment, then we are going to have a revolution in Zimbabwe," he said. Rusero believes President Mugabe will continue to remain in power as long as the organizers of protests fail to bridge the divide among themselves.

Zimbabwe proteste against President Mugabe Copyright: Getty Images/AFP/Z. Auntony

Zimbabwe has been gripped by protests for four months

Business losses

Last Friday, demonstrations held in the capital Harare turned extremely violent. The police interrupted a peaceful rally organized by opposition parties, in spite of a court order allowing the demonstration to go ahead.

The opposition parties had organized the rally to petition the government on electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 elections. They accuse President Mugabe of having used skewed electoral laws to steal previous elections.

Property worth thousands of euros (dollars) was destroyed and looted as the police used teargas and water cannon to disperse the protest. Small businesses complain that frequent clashes with the police are ruining trade.

"We work with people in offices, normally," said Simbarashe Chitagu, who runs a taxi business in central Harare. "We definitely know that there is no business for us when they call for a strike or a stay away."

Zimbabwe anti government protest DW/P.Musvanhiri

Protestors in Zimbabwe are becoming more outspoken when confronting authority

Zimbabwe's economy is in distress. More than 80% of the population is unemployed and the majority of them work in the informal sector to make ends meet.

Speaking to DW, President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, Denford Mutashu, said the people involved in the protest movements should put property and the interests of businesses first.

"Direct loss due to destruction and vandalism amounts to hundreds of thousands of US dollars," Mutashu said. "This is not the Zimbabwe we want. We want a peaceful environment, where business thrives."

Call for dialogue

On Tuesday, the European Union (EU) delegation to Zimbabwe urged the government and civil society groups to condemn any form of violence in the strongest manner.

"We call on all parties involved [to understand] the importance of constitutional rights and freedoms which have to be upheld by everybody including the police force," EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme, said.

Zimbabwe protests by opposition in Harare © Reuters/P. Bulawayo

The ruling ZANU-PF party blames the unrest on foreign embassies

But President Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party played down the social unrest and accused foreign embassies of sponsoring those behind the protests to rise up against the government.

In an interview with DW, ZANU-PF deputy spokesperson, Psychology Maziwisa, said opposition parties had failed in their efforts to use these protest movements to oust the government.

"The shutdowns have been a clear and palpable failure on the part of the opposition," Maziwisa said. "It has exposed them as failures that are unable to organize and mobilize the people and are incapable of winning the 2018 elections."

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