A group picketed outside the Zimbabwean embassy against state brutality in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean state is cracking down on dissent following its announcement on 13 January that the petrol price would be increased to R45 per litre to address a crippling shortage of fuel. This sparked protests that saw roads being barricaded with burning tyres and several cars torched. The army and police were unleashed on the protesters in Harare and Bulawayo and hundreds were arrested.
A picket to protest the crackdown was held outside the Zimbabwean embassy in Cape Town, supported by Zimbabwean nationals with members of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party among the concerned South Africans.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing a prolonged economic crisis for over a decade with cash shortages, high unemployment and recently a scarcity of staples such as bread and cooking oil. According to Tinashe Chifamba, one of the picketers who is an organiser for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, the unemployed and those in the rural areas have been hardest hit by the economic crisis. “We have the highest unemployment rate and most people work and solely rely on selling sweets and chips in the informal economy. For someone who sells Niknaks they will have to sell about 40 packets a day to be able to afford to buy a loaf of bread,” said Chifamba.
Another picketer who wanted to remain anyonymous told Elitsha that even those that are working are struggling as salaries have not changed while the costs of living only ever increase. “The salaries for those who are lucky to have jobs have remained the same for over 5 years for some but the prices of food and other goods keep going up,” she said.
According to media reports, shops were closed and some airlines cancelled flights to and from Harare as the protests gained momentum. More soldiers were deployed as night fell.
According to Bloomberg News, the government ordered internet service providers to block access to some social media sites as a way of quelling the protests. Zimbabwean lawyers and rights groups have said they are going to take the government to court for imposing a media blackout.
“Some people have been able to bypass that using some VPN [virtual private network] app”, said Chifamba. The internet is yet to be fully restored in Zimbabwe.
Solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe
According to Shaheed Mohamed from the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), they were in solidarity with Zimbabweans because what is happening to them could be done by the South African state as well.
“The SRWP believes in the unity of the working class irrespective of country of origin. The same imperialist that is plundering Zimbabwe is plundering SA and the rest of Africa. Zimbabwe is a rich country yet everywhere people are starving. What is necessary in Zimbabwe is the formation of a new, independent, socialist revolutionary workers party. The capitalist forces have failed. It is time for the working class to take over. We cannot allow a military dictatorship in Zimbabwe nor anywhere else. If workers are shot with impunity in Zimbabwe, tomorrow the same will happen to us. Remember that the SA government funds Zimbabwe and thus is directly involved in support of a military dictatorship,” said Mohamed.
The SRWP is planning to picket outside the Cape Town embassy on Friday while the MDC Alliance is planning to march to the Pretoria embassy on the 26th of January.
The Cape Town embassy was quickly closed when they heard that there was going to be a picket today.