Eight held after mobs hit foreign businesses in Zimbabwe

Monday, February 7, 2011

HARARE - Zimbabwean police said Monday eight people had been arrested in the wake of a rampage by backers of the Zanu-PF party in Harare, targeting foreign businesses.

In the latest violence attributed to activists of President Robert Mugabe’s party, a police official said an investigation was still going on into the rampage.

“We are still trying to see how much damage has been done. But we estimate the group was made up of about 700 people,” the official said.

The group had marched from Zanu-PF offices in the northern part of Harare’s central business district, chanting slogans praising Mugabe.

The approved march was in protest at the awarding of city parking lots management to a South African company by the city of Harare, police spokesman James Sabau said.

The marchers were carrying banners aimed against foreigners, including “No to foreigners controlling our economy” and “Foreigners, sanctions have destroyed our economy so we want to control our wealth”.

Most of the demonstrators were in their 20s and 30s, wearing Zanu T-shirts. Business came to a standstill and the marchers stopped a number of cars along the way and demanded that passersby join them.

When the marchers got to the Gulf Complex largely run by foreigners, the marchers began looting and beating up those who resisted.

One victim was a Nigerian businessman who sells laptops and electronic equipment.

“They said I must leave their country yet I have been here for more than eight years,” said the man, sobbing and declining to give his identity. “I was even importing stuff from South Africa when their economy was on its knees.”

The attacks on the foreigners has stirred fears of an escalation of violence as Zimbabwe gears up for elections later this year.

Mugabe is pushing for elections while his coalition partner and political rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is against any new elections before a new constitution is written.

“We have had a gross increase in violence, particularly from Jan 1,” said Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

“The violence is state-sponsored, state-led and inflicted. Of concern is the failure by the police to stop the violence,” Biti said.

Filed under: Politics

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