Zimbabwe: Traders threaten class suit against opposition, MDC-T planning Zanu-PF business boycott
Thousands of protesters brought Zimbabwe’s capital to a standstill and engaged in running battles with riot police officers on Friday, in one of the biggest demonstrations against President Robert Mugabe in years.
The chaotic scenes came after 18 opposition groups and parties called their supporters to march for reform of the country’s electoral system before going to the polls in 2018. Most shops closed early, while a popular informal traders market was razed to the ground.
We are planning something. This is no longer a secret now because this is a bare knuckle fight
Home affairs minister, Ignatius Chombo claimed that opposition leaders are “foreign agents” using protests to cause chaos in order to justify international intervention in Zimbabwe.
A lawyer aligned to the ruling Zanu PF, Terrence Hussein contends that affected business owners have a “strong case” for compensation.
However, he said; “most insurers are likely to refuse to pay claims and at law, they are justified to do so. The victims can, however, sue the organisers and inciters of the violence and claim damages”.
“However, suing could be expensive for most people, so the quicker way would be through a law gazetted by parliament to provide for the compensation of victims,” he said.
The ruling party accuses the opposition MDC-T of orchestrating the violence, but they in turn blame police heavy-handedness for the riots.
The state controlled Herald on Monday quoted the National Chairman of Grassroots Vendors’ Association, Alexio Mudzengerere, saying the looters were spotted wearing MDC-T regalia.
“We want our goods back. Our stalls are our mainstay and we have no alternative ways of earning a living,” he said. “Why should the protesters burn our goods? We saw the people who burnt our goods and we have videos. They were wearing MDC-T T-shirts.
“Some of our members made a follow up of the goods and saw the looters carrying them into Harvest House (MDC-T headquarters). Demonstrations should not be allowed. They do not benefit us at all. They are now used as a way to loot shops.”
Last week, footage showed youths smashing windows at several retail outlets forcing frightened employees to scurry for cover inside the premises.
The police unsuccessfully tried to block an opposition march, which was cleared by the courts, but this did not stop the cops from descending on the MDC-T youths, firing teargas and spraying them with water from cannons.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s chain store, Choppies was not spared. Mphoko has angered some Zimbabweans after reports revealed his long stay at a plush hotel at taxpayers’ expense.
Two months ago protestors staged a demonstration inside the hotel lobby demanding that he vacates the hotel. He has since checked out.
Independent media outlets have been awash with reports that Mphoko has gobbled hundreds of thousands in scarce dollars through his hotel stay, while refusing to move into a government issued house.
Meanwhile, plans are underway to boycott all business ventures owned by Zanu PF members including President Robert Mugabe’s Alpha and Omega company dairy products, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zuva Petroleum and Mphoko’s Choppies Supermarkets.
“We are planning something. This is no longer a secret now because this is a bare knuckle fight,” MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, told privately run NewsDay.
“We want to embark on a massive consumer boycott, boycotting products, shops, businesses of people who are corruptly benefiting from the Zanu PF regime and those people who are involved in human rights abuses”.