Soldiers beat and force Kuwadzana residents to Heroes Day celebrations
By Tererai Karimakwenda
13 August, 2007
The Heroes and Defence Forces holiday began with reports that uniformed soldiers continued to beat up vendors and residents of Kuwadzana high-density suburb in Harare. Gertrude Kuudzehwe, a representative of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in Kuwadzana, said the soldiers beat up vendors and innocent civilians, forcing them to walk to the Heroes celebrations at the Heroes Acre. The soldiers confiscated vegetables and other food items as the vendors fled for safety. Kuudzehwe said the primary reason was to increase numbers at the ceremony to make it look crowded on television and score a propaganda victory for the regime. She said many lost their valuable goods and business for the day.
Precious Shumba, spokesperson for CHRA said the soldiers descended on the area around 10:00 A.M. Monday, took a lunch break and returned again in the afternoon. But targeting vendors takes away their only option to make a living. It is not clear why they are targeting Kuwadzana, but they attacked vendors there last week as well, in a move seen to be linked to the price control exercise.
The holiday is meant to commemorate the liberation war that led to independence in 1980. But what is usually a happy time for Zimbabweans has been marred for the last few years by critical shortages of goods and services in the country. Shumba said this year was the worst so far. He spoke to people who said they had been stranded for days in Mbare. Many travellers told him they had not been able to find groceries to bring their relatives.
Over the weekend thousands of commuters around the country found themselves stranded due to serious fuel shortages. Privately owned buses stopped operating weeks ago after government ordered a 50% price-cut on travel fares. Bus terminals were crowded with many people waiting hours for transport. Riot police were called to the Mbare terminus in Harare Saturday to stop passengers fighting to board the buses. The state controlled Sunday Mail reported that 51 bus drivers were arrested on Saturday for overcharging. A police spokesman said they have been forced to pay Z$40,000 fines. The report also said some commuters were unwilling to incriminate their bus drivers, and refused to disclose what they had been charged.
Even the more affluent are being affected by the latest crisis and those who attended a cricket match between Zimbabwe and South Africa at the Harare Sports Club found there were no beers, no bread rolls no meat for burgers. The government over the weekend made a u-turn on its ban on private slaughter houses, reinstating licenses of some private abattoirs.
The regime has gone on a major international publicity stunt lately, claiming the problems we face are due to sanctions imposed by ‘western imperial powers’ and the UK. But the only sanctions that exist are targeted sanctions that ban Robert Mugabe and his closest allies from travelling abroad. Their personal assets have also been frozen. Economic experts blame the current crisis on the price blitz initiated by government 6 weeks ago. Panic buying and massive looting by authorities left shelves empty and created shortages as most retailers just cannot afford to reorder supplies that they then have to sell at a loss.