Zimbabwe police deployed in force in Gweru, witnesses said, as authorities sought to keep a lid on dissent after banning a third anti-government protest the main opposition party organised inside five days.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) planned rolling mass demonstrations in different cities starting last Friday. It accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of mishandling the economy, facing its worst crisis in a decade and repression.
The MDC would challenge the ban in court. The party failed to overturn previous bans on marches in Harare and Bulawayo.
In Gweru police patrolled on foot and in trucks and also cordoned off a university, a local journalist told Reuters.
“There is a determined effort by the regime to ensure there is no more democratic space,” MDC national spokesman Daniel Molokele said.
“They are deploying military and police in the streets. It clearly shows the new government is worse than that of Robert Mugabe.”
The demonstrations are viewed as a test of Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent in a country tainted by a long history of repression.
Authorities are jittery following violent fuel protests in January that triggered an army crackdown in which more than a dozen people died.