Protests against new tax in Zimbabwe banned


Zimbabwe police will stop planned protests by the labour movement against a new tax on money transfers because of a standing order outlawing public gatherings in the capital following a cholera outbreak, its spokesman said.

The opposition accuses law officers of selectively applying the ban, saying supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa are allowed to hold rallies in the capital while those for the opposition have been stopped.

With post-election turmoil two months ago in mind, government appears resolved to keep a lid on demonstrations in opposition urban strongholds fearing they could spiral into violence, analysts say. Six people died in violence which followed an army crackdown after the election.

The labour movement weakened over the years due to high unemployment, it maintains strong links with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose supporters are likely to take part in protests.

Fifty people died and more than 10,000 are infected in the biggest outbreak of cholera, a water-borne disease, since 2008.

Police spokesman Paul Nyathi said in a statement authorities would enforce the ban on gatherings to stop Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) protests in Harare.

Mnangagwa is expected to preside over the graduation of students at the University of Zimbabwe in the capital. The event was suspended last month due to the cholera outbreak.

Nyathi said “the cholera outbreak is not yet over, particularly in Harare” and warned potential protesters”if anything turns nasty those organising the demonstrations will be held responsible.”

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa earlier told reporters the labour body called for the strike against the new tax as well as a central bank decision to order banks to open accounts for clients who earn foreign currency and separate their money from dollars in the local banking system, known as “Zollars”.

Businesses and ordinary people objected to the two percent tax, arguing it eats into earnings while funding profligate spending by government.

Over the last week, Zollars and the surrogate bond note currency continued to lose value on the black market, causing a spike in prices and shortages of basic goods and medicines amid panic buying.

The southern African nation, which adopted the US dollar after hyper-inflation left its own currency worthless in 2009, is gripped by acute shortages of cash that has seen prices of imports soar while businesses struggle to restock.