'War Vets' Besiege Zim Finance Minister Biti

“We are saying that Biti must come down (the steps) and announce a salary increase for civil servants right away. If he does not, he should resign immediately,” shouted one Fanuel Matsenga, Harare provincial political commissar, as he addressed the demonstrators.

“President Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara have sat down and agreed that civil servants must be awarded a salary increase and they have all been defied by one man. Who does he think he is? He should go.”

Business ground to a halt at the new government complex where the Finance Ministry’s offices are domiciled.

The war veterans, almost half of whom were women, blocked the entrance to the parking area of the complex.

About a dozen group leaders paced the corridors of the sixth floor to confront Biti, who was suspected to be holed up in one of the offices.

“Tinorara pano nhasi. Arikuda kutijairirira. We have had enough of this nonsense,” said one of the leaders.

The situation was tense even for journalists who were threatened with physical violence as they tried to establish from the unidentified group leaders on who the organisers of the demonstration were and its purpose.

For the better part of the afternoon demonstrations, it could not be established where Biti was hiding.

Agitated by Biti’s refusal to come out, the war veterans harassed Biti’s aids demanding that he reveals his boss’s whereabouts.

It could not be established if the demonstrators had sought police clearance to embark on their demonstration.

Unlike other demonstrations by the opposition which are violently broken by the police, there were no police officers to disperse the demonstrators, who sang and danced for hours.

Only a handful police officers permanently deployed at the complex were there to save Biti from being yanked from his offices by the evidently angry demonstrators.

Biti, who has vowed he would not be intimidated by repeated threats by Mugabe and his supporters, could however not be reached for comment.

It is the second such demonstration to be made by pro-Mugabe supporters in a space of two weeks.

Another group calling itself the anti-sanctions trust besieged Biti two weeks ago demanding that he signs a party anti sanctions form, which Biti refused to do.