Zimbabwe opposition calls off protests after court ban

HARARE (AFP) – Opposition mass protests against deepening economic problems in Zimbabwe were called off yesterday after a court upheld an 11th hour ban imposed by the police.

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had vowed to launch protest marches yesterday against the worsening economy, despite government threats to stop them.

Late on Thursday police said the protests had been banned.

The MDC went to court in the early hours yesterday to challenge the ban, but lost the case.

“The court has said the demonstration should be off,” MDC spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda told AFP.

Protestors gather on a street in Harare yesterday. PHOTO: AP

The party’s Vice President Tendai Biti told reporters outside the high court that “we differ respectfully with the ruling”.

“The regime has denied the right for Zimbabweans to demonstrate,” said Biti.

He added that even if they had won “this march was not going to take place because the city has been cordoned off” by police.

Armed police formed barricades around the city yesterday, turning back cars on streets leading to the MDC’s headquarters, with road blocks also set up elsewhere in the capital.

Long queues of traffic formed as the police searched cars and commuter buses for weapons.

Teams of riot police also carried out patrols and randomly stopped and searched pedestrians.

The planned protests would have been the first since rallies in January against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices that ended in deadly clashes with troops.

As the Zimbabwean economy deteriorates, people are facing shortages of basic goods and skyrocketing prices.