Source: 30 NABBED IN EPWORTH, RUWA AS . . . Police rein in rowdy touts | The Herald July 4, 2016
Police yesterday arrested more than 30 people in Harare following chaotic scenes caused by touts and rank marshals protesting against heavy traffic police presence on the roads. Commuter omnibus operators were quick to distance themselves from the hoodlums saying they were engaged in dialogue with the Government and had no reason to resort to such protests.
Touting is illegal as it is akin to extortion. There were skirmishes in Ruwa, Zimre Park, Mabvuku, Tafara and Epworth where the touts were blocking roads using bricks, logs and granite rocks while others were burning tyres. Scores of people, including school children were left stranded and had to walk to their workplaces and schools.
Police had to use teargas and water cannons to disperse the violent hooligans who were toyi-toying along the roads harassing commuters. Police said they were aware of certain political elements angling for social unrest in the country and were ready to deal with such malcontents.
In Epworth, the situation was tense and two police officers were injured after being attacked by the protesters while a Baker’s Inn truck carrying bread was looted before police restored order. Several cars passing along Chiremba and Mutare roads had their windows indiscriminately smashed.
After the situation had calmed down in Epworth, two vehicles from the American and British embassies were seen patrolling in the area while the opposition MDC-T hastily convened a Press conference urging its supporters to join in the skirmishes.
Briefing journalists after the disturbances, police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said they had arrested more than 30 people in connection with the disturbances. She warned against lawlessness saying police would descend heavily on the perpetrators. “No one is allowed to block roads as it is against the laws of this country,” she said.
“We are urging peace-loving people to abide by the law. The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to warn all those who are inciting, instigating and engaging in violence that such misconduct will be severely dealt with. The Zimbabwe Republic Police is quite aware that some people would like to engage in social unrest.
“It is in this regard that police officers have been heavily deployed to deal with any public disorder situation. ‘‘As police, we have information and intelligence on the identities of some criminal elements who are behind the social unrest.”
She defended police roadblocks saying: “The security roadblocks on our roads are there to monitor the situation. Be warned not to engage in violent activities.” Recently, some messages were being circulating on social media by unidentified elements inciting people to demonstrate against the Government.
The messages were using inflammatory language mobilising people to stop reporting for work or risk having their cars and household properties burnt. Transport operators distanced themselves from yesterday’s chaos.
“We are a union that is still at the engagement stage with the Government. We can’t be getting involved in the strike while at the same time engaging Government to have our grievances addressed,” said Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors Mr Fradreck Maguramhinga.
The Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators secretary-general, Mr Ngoni Katsvairo, said: “We blame this on touts who extort money from our drivers and police have failed to remove them from ranks and locations. We also blame this on mushika-shika operators which the police have also failed to contain and non-compliant operators who engage in corruption with the police at the expense of compliant ones.”
Some of the touts who spoke to The Herald complained about too many roadblocks. “There are too many roadblocks and police are extorting us. We want police officers on the road and not bank tellers,” said one of the touts in Epworth. In Ruwa, a kombi driver, Mr Tichaona Magwenzi, said: “How can we have 10 roadblocks on a road stretch of 25km. We are saying no to this daylight robbery by the police.”
The disturbances in Harare come at a time when the Government is investigating the involvement of a third force in skirmishes that rocked Beitbridge Border Post last Friday. Property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was either burnt or vandalised by the hooligans.
At least 17 suspects appeared in court in Beitbridge on Sunday over the violent clashes that saw the torching of a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority warehouse. The hooligans used the same style of burning tyres and blocking roads, a move that had been described by State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi as alien to Zimbabweans.
This had raised suspicion that there is a third force behind the violent activities as some of the protestors were seen donning well embroidered T-shirts with the opposition hashtag “#Tajamuka”. The T-shirts have become a common feature at opposition demonstrations in Harare.