We're worried about violence shown by some Zim police, says EU
31 August 2016, 10:42
Harare - Ahead of a planned national stay-away in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, the EU has expressed its concern at rising cases of police violence towards protesters.
"Use of force should only be considered as a last resort," the EU delegation to Zimbabwe said on Tuesday in a statement likely to anger officials close to longtime president Robert Mugabe, which says Western embassies are behind the wave of protests currently rocking this southern African nation.
In power in Zimbabwe for the last 36 years, Mugabe is taking an increasingly hard line on protesters, with police using tear-gas, batons and water cannon to beat back not just those taking to the streets but also bystanders unlucky enough to be caught up in the chaos.
The #Tajamuka pressure group behind Wednesday's stay-away has urged Zimbabweans to avoid the streets and any confrontation with police - but it's still not clear how widely this protest will be followed.
Anti-Mugabe campaigners held two stay-aways in July but only the first was widely followed.
No single leader of the protests
Analysts say many in Zimbabwe's struggling economy simply cannot afford to take time off while others - including schools - were ticked off by the authorities for responding to the strike calls. Schools are on holiday in Zimbabwe this month.
On social media there are complaints that few are aware of the strike call (though it has received the backing of the Combined Harare Residents Association, which has members in the capital's townships). Since the leader of the #ThisFlag protest movement, churchman Evan Mawarire, was forced into exile last month, protests have been staged on a near-daily basis by a variety of groups.
There is no single leader of the protests.
Clearly worried by footage and pictures of police turning on protesters in Harare recently, the EU said: "Police have a duty to facilitate the conduct of undisturbed peaceful demonstrations and petitions."
Earlier on Tuesday the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he'd visited a 62-year old woman seen being kicked by police outside a court in Harare on Friday.
Lillian Chinyerere "sustained shoulder injuries and is now hard of hearing" but still wants to take part in the next protest, Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party said.