Zimbabwe protests: Opposition vows to defy police ban on rally

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Zimbabwe’s main opposition group has said it will hold anti-government protests in the capital Harare, in defiance of a police ban.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called for protests against the government’s handling of the economy.

The MDC has said it has given the authorities assurances the protests will be peaceful.

But police say they have evidence the protests will be violent.

A “prohibition notice” banning the demonstrations has been issued by authorities in Harare’s central district, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said.

“The police will be conducting patrols, surveillance, stop-and-searches to ensure law and order is maintained in all areas of the country,” he added.

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In response, an MDC official told Reuters news agency that the party was not aware of the prohibition order and the demonstrations would take place as planned.

The official said, given the party had complied with law by notifying police of the protests, it expected them to “ensure there is peace”.

What’s the background?

If the protests do go ahead, they will be the first since rallies against fuel price increases in January led to deadly clashes with troops.

In recent months, Zimbabwe’s economy has deteriorated, feeding into wider grievances with the ruling Zanu-PF party under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr Mnangagwa swept to power in November 2017 after long-time leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup.

He called elections, held the following year on 30 July, which he won. On the campaign trail, he promised democratic reforms and economic recovery after years of decline under Mr Mugabe.

But the mood of hope and change in the wake of Mr Mugabe’s removal from power has diminished as Zimbabwe’s economy has faltered.

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