Zimbabwe police on Thursday arrested trade union leaders ahead of nationwide protests by workers against a new electronic money transfer tax and a sharp increase in prices of basic commodities.
Police refused to give the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) permission to stage the demonstrations, citing a cholera outbreak, but the labour body vowed to defy the ban.
ZCTU president Peter Mutusa and secretary-general Japhet Moyo were among several activists arrested in the capital Harare and other cities in raids at their offices.
In Harare, police maintained a heavy presence on the streets and arrested some activists who had started gathering for the protests in the city centre.
Make ends meet
ZCTU had said it was mobilising thousands of people to participate in the protests because most workers were struggling to make ends meet after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government announced the new tax.
According to the government, the electronic money transfer tax, currently pegged at 5 cents for every transaction, will be increased to 2 cents per dollar for any transacted amount between $10 and $500,000 from October 15.
At mid-morning, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) tweeted: “In Harare, @ZLHRLawyers has deployed lawyers to offer emergency legal support services to Zimbabwe Congress of Unions leaders including president Peter Mutasa and SG Japhet Moyo arrested by ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) at their Harare offices today ahead of a planned anti-government protest.”
The lawyers later announced that they were having a busy day as their members had been deployed to the eastern city of Mutare to represent ZCTU activists who had been arrested.
Other arrests were reported in the city of Masvingo. The last time there were mass protests in Harare, six people were shot dead by soldiers on August 1.
ZCTU said it was not scared of a brutal clampdown by the army and police.
Zimbabwe has been suffering from economic decline for the past two decades and the military used it as an excuse to topple long time ruler Robert Mugabe in November last year.
However, President Mnangagwa has failed to reverse the decline in the 11 months he has been in power.
In July this year, he won a controversial election against youthful opposition leader Nelson Chamisa after promising to open the economy up for international investors.