Zimbabwe opposition tries to lift protest ban as armed police patrol capital

Implicated... Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda allegedly signed off on duty free vehicle imports

"It's as if Mugabe is back".

Police announced they were banning the protests on Thursday evening.

On the eve of planned demonstrations, the European Union reiterates that citizens have rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and to peaceful protest.

Although a few hundred protesters gathered, many more Harare residents stayed off the streets and shops did not open to avoid any possible trouble.

Days ahead of the planned Harare demonstration, six political activists were abducted from their homes at night and beaten by armed men, a coalition of rights groups said. The protests will spread to other cities next week, the opposition said. Anger is mounting as Zimbabweans grapple with soaring inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of United States dollars, fuel and bread.

In Geneva, a spokesman for the United Nations human rights commissioner urged the government to engage with citizens on legitimate economic grievances and "stop cracking down on peaceful protesters".

Teams of riot police also carried out patrols and randomly stopped and searched pedestrians. Police warned people to stay away from the demonstrations.

Mnangagwa, 77, came to power with promises of sweeping political and economic reforms.

The party's accusing the government of corruption and economic mismanagement.

Upon taking office, Mnangagwa had vowed to revive Zimbabwe's economy, but people in the country say things have gone from bad to worse amid shortages of basic goods and skyrocketing prices. Elected after the armed forces intervened to oust Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa has said he aims to break with the long legacy of repression that characterized much of his predecessor's 37 years in power. "Instead of listening to protestors' concerns about the economy, the authorities have used torture and abduction to crush dissent and instill fear".

Around five million people - nearly a third of the country's 16 million population - are in need of aid and at least half of them are on the cusp of "starvation", the World Food Programme (WFP) said this month.Armed police had put up barricades across around the city early Friday in a bid to deter protesters, turning back cars on streets leading to the MDC's party headquarters.

"With opposition demonstrations still likely to take place in Zimbabwe in the near future, we urge the government to find ways to continuously engage with the population about their legitimate grievances on the economic situation, and to stop cracking down on peaceful protesters", said Colville, in a statement Friday. "Then they saw the police coming - they were encircling people, they were actually surrounding the supporters then they came closer to us and started beating people", a 35-year-old protester who gave her name as Achise told AFP.

"The demonstrations have not been stopped", said Mangwana after he was asked to confirm the President's position with regards to the upcoming protest.



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