Police block demo, as Grace descends on town

POLICE in Gwanda have, for the second time in a week, banned local residents from marching on Friday in protest over the worsening water situation because First Lady Grace Mugabe will be visiting the mining town on the same day.

Source: Police block demo, as Grace descends on town – NewsDay Zimbabwe October 26, 2016

Staff Reporter/Newzimbabwe.com

The police first barred Gwanda residents from taking to the streets last Wednesday, saying they had gathered intelligence showing the planned march would turn violent.

Police further said the application by the Gwanda Residents’ Association (GRA) did not meet the seven-day waiting period, forcing the association to make another application for October 28.

In a letter to GRA, Superintendent Stephen Mutema said the police will be “overstretched” this Friday.

“You are, hereby, notified that the date of your intended demonstration is coinciding with the following events, whose notices have already been given and a go ahead granted, International Women’s Day, Families Day and Launch of Women in Mining,” he said.

Grace, sources said, will be the guest of honour at the events and a heavy police presence is expected.

GRA secretary, Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo said although the planned march had initially been cleared, police have yet again banned them from taking to the streets.

“But we have since established that the said events will be addressed by the First lady Grace Mugabe. We wanted to demonstrate for a handover of water supply operations to the council by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa). Zinwa is refusing with the pump station and there have been serious water problems.”

Fuzwayo said they wanted to demonstrate even in front of the First Lady to show her that all was not well in the town. He said Zinwa has put prepared water meters at the pump station and restricts water supply to residents, hence, they planned to demonstrate for a hand over of the facility to council.

“We have since agreed with the police to postpone the march to Saturday and on Saturday we will not be stopped,” he said.

Gwanda is faced with a deepening water crisis, with some parts of the town, having gone for almost a month now without running water, as the impasse between the local authority and Zinwa over the control of bulk water rights escalates.

Gwanda mayor, Knowledge Ndlovu says their takeover of water treatment will ease the perennial water shortages faced by residents, while Zinwa on the other hand accuses council of wanting to evade a $9million debt.