Zimbabwe shutdown protest call gains momentum, activists table demands

HARARE – Internet activists joined by students and trade unions have called for a stay-at-home protest on May 9 over Zimbabwe’s deepening economic crisis.

Mobilising under the hashtag #ShutDownZimbabwe, the activists hope workers and students will heed their call to bring the country to a standstill.

A list of demands tabled by Pachedu, an election transparency advocacy group, includes calls to end ZUPCO’s public transport monopoly, a reduction to university fees, channelling funds to hospitals, raising salaries of public sector workers and pension pay-outs as well as stemming the devaluation of the local currency.

“On Monday, the task is very simple; stay home! Let your voice speak in a peaceful way. Further action will be taken if the government does not act,” Pachedu said.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) said in a statement: “To every citizen of Zimbabwe, every parent, worker, young and the old… the student fraternity is going to shut down every institution of higher and tertiary learning on Monday, May 9, 2022. Students are saying #FeesMustFall through a nationwide campus shutdown.”

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said its members would join the stay-at-home protest.

“We demand state-funded education and a living wage for teachers. Teachers are parents. Schools will totally shutdown as we unite to #SaveOurEducation,” ARTUZ said.

The main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change has not publicly backed the protest, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has also not publicly endorsed the mass action.

In July 2020, state agents cracked down on organisers of planned anti-government protests – arresting dozens, abducting some and torturing others.

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance, said on Thursday: “The world will be watching when #ShutDownZimbabwe happens. There is no room for suppression of the rights of the people, including the right to protest. There should be no obstruction of the people. There should be no arrests and intimidation of activists.”

Maimane said South Africa had “paid a heavy price for the oppression in Zimbabwe.”

“We will not ignore brutality and oppression. We cannot repeat the mistakes of 2002 and 2008. We cannot support dictatorship anymore. It is costing us dearly. Costing the whole of SADC,” he tweeted.

The hashtag #ShutDownZimbabwe was top of the Twitter trends on Thursday with the planned action gaining a groundswell of support.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power following a 2017 military coup, faces growing criticism over his government’s failure to grow the economy. The country’s tanking currency has shrivelled incomes. He has also been criticised over a failing transport system, hospitals without medicines and rampant official corruption.

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