Zimbabweans Ignore Shut-Down Call, Cite Survival Concerns

By RadioVOP Correspondents

Harare, August 31, 2016 – THE national shut-down that had been called for Wednesday by anti-government activists turned a big flop after the larger majority of Zimbabweans reported for work at their different work places.

Harare, which last week witnessed wild protests which resulted in the burning of two trucks belonging to ZBC and the police, was normal with most shop owners operating.

There was a conspicuous police presence in the CBD with water cannon trucks on standby to deal with any disturbances.

It was also business as usual in Bulawayo as many supermarkets and government institutions were open.

Just like in Harare, there was heavy police presence in the CBD.

One shop owner who spoke to RadioVOP said he chose to open for business as he tried to close during the last shutdown call only to find people never heeded the call.

“We made loss while others profit,” he told our reporter Dumisani Nyoni on condition of anonymity.

In Mutare, RadioVOP’s Kenneth Matimaire said the situation was also normal with all government departments, health facilities and supermarkets operating at full capacity.

Informal traders at Sakubva Flea Market, which sells second hand clothing, was also fully operational while Chidzere Bar, another popular vending site in the CBD was fully operational.

Most informal traders who spoke to RadioVOP said they could not heed the stay-away call as they had financial commitments to attend to.

“Things are tight my brother, for me and everyone here. In as much as I would have wanted to join in the stay away, I have a landlord who needs his rent, I have children who need food at home. So I have no choice but to be here at work,” said Prosper Rangana, who operates from the Sakubva market.

However, other traders indicated that they were threatened with eviction from their trading places by suspected Zanu PF supporters if they heeded any other stay away calls from anti-government forces.

Manicaland police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said there was general peace and tranquillity in the city at the moment.

In Gweru, Sydney Gokomere reports nearly all shops and places where people conduct their informal trade were open.

There were no visible deployments of anti-riot police in the streets of Gweru excdpt for the few police officers who usually make patrols.

Most people who spoke to RadioVOP said they were aware of the call for shutdown but questioned its effectiveness saying most people were not formally employed and stood to lose their earnings if they stayed at home.

“I am a vendor and it wouldn’t make sense for me to continue participating in these shutdowns,” Tendai Chiradzo said.

“The last time I participated in the first national shutdown but then to expect me to repeat the same thing with the nature of my survival would be asking too much.”

A flea market trader, James Mavhuza said the timing of the shutdown was a bit problematic since it fell on a month-end when he was busy looking for money to settle bills and rentals.

“The problem is that people think that shutdowns and other protests are done in Harare and since demonstrations started, there has been little participation from Gweru,” said James Chiseko, a self-employed motor mechanic.

In Karoi, Nhau Mangirai said the shutdown remained a pipeline dream for organisers as small towns in Mashonaland West remained opened during the day.

The resort town of Kariba and Magunje areas also had normal working days.  

Although some said they were concerned about their security, those who are mostly vendors saw no reason to miss a single dollar during month end.

“Of course some have remained opened out of fear of state security agents but the reality is that the majority of us are vendors and you get paid by displaying your products in the streets and not at home. We have families to feed at the end of the day,’’ said Tobias Magara, a local mobile vendor in Karoi central business center.

Karoi hospital and other Government departments were also opened while the local second hand clothing market was a hive of activity as both locals and Zambians traders mingled with customers.

However, Karoi based human rights defender Godwin Gutsa said civic organisations and government should educate citizens on their basic rights.

“We are calling upon civic societies to gear up their campaign on basic human rights issue.

“Although the police brutality is on top of agenda by those calling for shutdown, is everyone getting clean water? Are we getting required medication in public hospitals? How about those starving without food as basic right and high unemployment? Why is the Government failing to deliver on those rights and who can stand up on your behalf as these are enshrined in the constitution,” said Gutsa.

The August 31 national shutdown has remained without a leader although the firebrand activist group, #Tajamuka/Sesijikile was doing much of the advocacy.

Other groups that has been agitating for a stayaway Pastor Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign and the #ThisFlower campaign leader Stern Zvorwadza.