Anti-riot police were out in full force in Bulawayo on Monday to thwart any attempts by members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to stage its planned demonstration.
Most parts of the city were under heavy police guard with security teams deployed at strategic points across the city centre.
Water cannons were also on standby at the Large City Hall, while an army helicopter hovered above the city, with police officers on horseback and others on foot continuously patrolling the streets.
The MDC provincial offices were also sealed off, with the police barring anyone who attempted to access the building.
At the Tredgold Magistrates Court, where a court case to hear an MDC appeal against the prohibitive order issued by the police was underway, the police maintained a heavy presence.
Some members of the MDC who wanted to offer support for their national chairperson Tabitha Khumalo and five other party members who were arrested on Saturday in Tshabalala suburb for distributing fliers urging residents to attend the Monday demonstration were turned away.
While residents went about their normal business, the presence of police details and other security agents was disconcerting. Addressing the press at the Magistrate Courts, MDC National Spokesperson, Daniel Molokele said their appeal was a trial for democracy.
“We have an important message to tell Zimbabwe and the world. What we see here at the magistrate’s court is not a trial of politicians or activists but a trial for democracy. Democracy is facing a court hearing where the new political order that came in through a coup d’état in 2017 was legitimised by a stolen election in 2018,” he said.
Molokele claimed the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration had been deceiving the world with its reformist agenda.
“Evidence brought into the court is proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the so-called new dispensation is worse than the previous regime. Today in Bulawayo woke up to hundreds of police officers, sealing the city and blocking access.
“The city is still blocked and this is a blatant violation of Section 59 of the constitution, which clearly explains people have a right to demonstrate and petition peacefully,” he said.
The party spokesperson said MDC had followed due process and was a law-abiding political party.
“We are not renegades, terrorists or criminal but we submitted ourselves to the authority of Magistrates court. We are the symbols of the hardships people face everyday… Instead of allowing people to allow themselves freely, the state is the one who unleased state machinery on people to stop them,” Molokele said.
He described the state machination as rape and attack of democracy.
“What is in Bulawayo is a vicious, solid attack on democracy. ED (Mnangagwa) has deceived SADC… Ian Smith relied on the Law and Maintenance Act but people stood up to him. Robert Mugabe had the Public Order and Security Act but he was removed. We know they now have Maintenance of Order and Public Act but history has proved that dictators will not succeed,” Molokele warned.
Meanwhile, the MDC vowed to continue with its protests in the other cities.
“The free Zimbabwe march is a process, not an event. It is a marathon that started on August 16. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are continuing in Gweru, next day in Masvingo and Mutare the next even going beyond. We will then re-organise, regroup and continue if it means giving all police stations across the country, notification notices we will do so,” said Molokele.