A street vendor flees with his goods as Zimbabwe opposition supporters clash with police in Harare on August 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Wilfred Kajese)
Harare (AFP) – Zimbabwean police have announced a fresh ban on protests in the capital Harare, state media said Tuesday, in another attempt to end demonstrations against veteran ruler President Robert Mugabe.
The order came hours after a coalition of opposition parties said they would stage mass rallies across the country on Saturday to push for reform before elections due in 2018.
“These are the last kicks of a dying regime and we expected no better from them,” Douglas Mwozora, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party, told AFP.
“They have no respect for the law but we are not going to surrender our constitutional right. We are going back to the courts to challenge this illegal ban.”
An earlier protest ban in Harare was overturned by the courts last week, despite Mugabe vowing a crackdown on dissent and blasting judges for “reckless” rulings allowing previous rallies.
Hardlife Mudzingwa, spokesman for the pressure group Tajamuka (We are agitated), told AFP: “We will not heed this unconstitutional declaration by the police.”
Opposition to Mugabe’s 36-year reign has grown in recent months with a surge of public demonstrations, triggered by an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and the government struggling to pay its workers.
Mugabe, 92, has often used brutal force to silence his opponents, and at the weekend he warned the protestors they were “playing a dangerous game”.
“Let the opposition parties and all those angling for chaos, mayhem and violent demonstrations be warned that our patience has run out,” Mugabe said in an address to his party’s central committee.
“They are planning to terrorise the rural areas in the mistaken belief that they can intimidate and harass our supporters. Let them be warned. They cannot win that war.”
Last week, the government announced plans to slash 25,000 jobs after it revealed that nearly 97 percent of its revenue goes to paying public workers’ salaries.
Soldiers and civil servants have regularly been paid late this year, heightening pressure on Mugabe, who came to power in 1980 and has vowed to stand for re-election in 2018.