Over 1200 in anti Mugabe protests at Beitbridge
By Lance Guma
23 February 2008.
Over 1200 Zimbabwean protesters based in South Africa swamped the Beitbridge border post Saturday to demonstrate against Robert Mugabe’s birthday celebrations on the other side of the border. Owing to massive food shortages in the country Mugabe is said to have chosen Beitbridge as the ideal location in order to facilitate the easy purchase and transport of food from neighbouring Musina in South Africa. Various exile groups however came together and organized a protest to counter this birthday bash.
Over 30 police officers were called in to manage trucks and buses that had formed a 2-kilometre queue to cross the border while the protesters positioned themselves just meters from the customs office. MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennet who is based in South Africa addressed the crowd in the native Shona language. Speaking to Newsreel later in the day Bennet said they had underestimated the turnout and after only printing 1000 t-shirts at least over 200 activists failed to get any.
Simon Mudekwa from the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Youth Movement said they had brought in their supporters using 6 buses from Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa. ‘Many from Zimbabwe walked over the bridge to come and join us because we had put out the word that there would be a rally here to counter Mugabe's celebrations that side,’ he told reporters. The protesters released a helium-filled blimp that had the words ‘Free and fair or just hot air,’ a reference to coming elections on March 29. Another helium balloon left to float in the air was written, ‘Bob you’ve had your cake, now beat it.’
More stunts were still to follow, as a giant cardboard cake was unveiled. Four men dressed as skeletons jumped out and started dancing to the cheering crowds while holding out banners that read out the names of liberation war heroes like Josiah Tongogara.
View Photos of the Demonstration.