Saturday 17 August 2019

Public frustration mounts as army remains silent on its plans for handover of power

Pastor Evan Mawarire
Pastor Evan Mawarire

Richard Oliphant

Zimbabwe's ruling party and military must not exclude the public from the "incredible change" taking place as Robert Mugabe relinquishes power, a pastor who led the largest anti-government protests in decades has warned.

Evan Mawarire, who was jailed by Mr Mugabe's government after his 'This Flag' movement led to widespread demonstrations last year, called on Zimbabweans to take to the streets to ensure the public are not cut out of any exit deal agreed between the country's president and the military.

"Should we just sit and wait or shall we at least be part of this transition process?" Mr Mawarire asked in a live-streamed address watched by more than 18,000 people yesterday.

Mr Mawarire said: "Are we there to sit and wait or there also to play a role? People are losing hope as they sit and watch. Who is going to represent the citizens? You think that the politicians are sitting there talking about you all the time? No, politicians are interested in power, that is what they do."

Mr Mawarire said that he would ask the military for permission to lead a march "for peace and a beautiful transition to the next phase".

He later retracted the call, saying it would "not be a good idea right now."

The call for public action came amid mounting frustration at the lack of transparency since soldiers arrested Mr Mugabe and his family late on Tuesday.

Neither Mr Mugabe nor the presumed mastermind of the coup, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president, have issued statements or been seen in public since. The military has not commented since Major General SB Moyo, chief of staff logistics, denied a coup was under way and appealed for calm in an address on national television in the early hours of Wednesday.

More than 100 civil society groups yesterday signed a statement calling on Mr Mugabe (93) to step aside peacefully and asking the military to respect the constitution. A group of churches issued a similar statement calling for calm.

Residents of Harare described the city as "calm", with the small number of soldiers deployed at strategic points apparently making a point of keeping a low and friendly profile.

The police have vanished from the streets along with the road blocks they usually man around the city where they sometimes 'shake down' drivers for bribes.

"It's very weird," said Doug Coultard, a Harare-based human rights lawyer.

"Things are very calm and in many ways things are going on as normal.

"People are going to work and going shopping and getting coffee and that kind of thing.

"But people are keeping their eyes glued to their WhatsApp and social media pages. They are definitely on edge and getting increasingly frustrated there is no direct line of communication about what is going on," he added.

Irish Independent

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