Harare, July 8, 2014 – Several Zimbabwean informal traders are at the risk of losing their source of livelihood after some ZANU PF supporters blocked them from occupying their trading stalls over the selling of DVD copies of a satirical British television series deemed unpalatable by the ruling party zealots.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) which has been monitoring and documenting human rights abuses in the troubled southern African country said traders at Mbare Musika, an informal trading market located in Harare’s teeming Mbare suburb were on Monday blocked from conducting their business of retailing pirated DVD’s and music discs after the ZANU PF supporters discovered that one of the vendors was selling an episode of a DVD entitled Strike Back, a British drama that has the attempted elimination of President Robert Mugabe as its plot.
The ZANU PF supporters were reportedly incensed after traders refused to endorse some form of punishment on a vendor only identified as Mike who was selling one of the Strike Back DVD episodes which the ruling party supporters claimed incited and endorsed the staging of a coup in Zimbabwe by the British government to overthrow President Mugabe’s administration from power.
Feeling spurned the ZANU PF supporters suspended operations on all market stalls where vendors trade DVDs and music discs while other traders who sell agricultural produce and other wares such as electrical gadgets were allowed to operate unhindered.
On Tuesday, the affected traders were barred from accessing their market stalls and a ZLHR crew witnessed some vendors being summoned to the ZANU PF district offices known as Takawira Mbare 3 District Office where they were subjected to a vetting process presided over by ZANU PF district chairperson only identified as Muchenje to ascertain their support and loyalty to the ruling party in order to be allowed to occupy their trading spots once again.
Based on a novel of the same name by novelist and former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier Chris Ryan, Strike Back is a British action and military television series. The series follows the actions of a secretive branch of the British Defence Intelligence service (DI), who operate several high risk, priority missions throughout the globe. It also depicts a sniper attempting to assassinate the President of Zimbabwe.
This is not the first time that Zimbabweans have landed themselves in trouble over the British television series.
In 2011, some Masvingo Polytechnic College students were arrested for watching the mock movie and charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the President. State prosecutors claimed that the students were likely to engender feelings of hostility, hatred and ridicule or contempt towards the ZANU PF leader.
According to ZLHR, more than 80 Zimbabweans have been charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the President.