By Prince Kurupati
There have been massive calls in Zimbabwe by different groups for foreign intervention following the violent government crackdown witnessed last week in the aftermath of the fuel protests. The calls for foreign intervention have intensified following the unfortunate pronouncements by the presidential spokesman, Mr George Charamba who said that the crackdown is just a ‘foretaste’ of things to come.
The leader of the country’s main opposition party Mr Nelson Chamisa was the first person to call upon SADC leaders especially the current chair, Cyril Ramaphosa (who is also the president of Zimbabwe) to initiate dialogue with his Zimbabwean counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In his calls for mediation, Mr Chamisa said that Cyril Ramaphosa had to engage with Emmerson Mnangagwa in a bid to bring calm and stability to Zimbabwe. Mr Chamisa’s sentiments were also echoed by other senior officials in the main opposition party (MDC Alliance). Tendai Biti stated that Ramaphosa had the duty to engage with Mnangagwa so as to reassure the citizens that the government is still committed to peace and not violence. Mr David Coltart, another key opposition figure decided to go biblical writing in a Tweet:
“A verse of @CyrilRamaphosa to consider today: Luke 10:36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ 37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him’. Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’.”
Across social media platforms (most of which were accessed ‘unofficially’ via VPN apps following the government directive to ban all social media platforms), Zimbabweans from all walks of life also called upon international actors to intervene. While many calls were directed towards Cyril Ramaphosa, others also called upon SADC as a body, the AU and the UN to intervene stating that they now fear of what the government may do next if the recent crackdown was just a ‘foretaste’.
The government descended heavily on protesters at the start of last week with the crackdown continuing through the entire week. Protesters had gone into the streets to show their dissatisfaction at the increase in fuel prices. Before leaving the country last week for state visits in Russia and other East European countries, Mnangagwa hiked fuel prices by over 100 percent to a staggering $3.11 (R42.83) per litre for diesel, and $3.33 for petrol. This compounded by the deteriorating economy was the last straw for Zimbabweans.
The country’s main labour body, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, therefore, took the initiative and called for a nationwide stay away. The plan was for everyone to stay indoors for 3 days starting Monday the 14th up to the 16th. However, what was originally planned as a stay away soon turned out to be a protest as hundreds of people flocked to the streets on Monday morning. Among those who took to the streets were opportunists who started looting shops, threatening and in some instances beating up those who were not willing to join them. At the same time, they also started burning down government vehicles and offices.
As such, there was a justification for the police to intervene so as to protect property but the force which they applied when they came was too extreme. Not only did they end up beating the innocent, but they also threatened human life as in some instances the forces used live ammunition.