Monday, 27 June 2016


POLICE in Harare yesterday arrested nine people, among them four civil rights activists and five freelance journalists — accusing them of storming Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s hotel demanding that he checks out and relocate to his government-issued mansion.

This came as an anonymous group of Zimbabweans have launched an online campaign, #boycottchoppies, urging citizens to boycott businesses run by Mphoko’s family, until he leaves the hotel. Mphoko’s family and some Indian investors are believed to be co-owners of Choppies Supermarket chain group.

The latest arrests came a day after police crushed another anti-Mphoko demonstration and arrested National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe leader Stern Zvorwadza and two other protestors before releasing them without charge.

A defiant Zvorwadza yesterday mobilised over 20 youths and stormed Rainbow Towers Hotel, where Mphoko has been holed since his appointment as Vice-President in December 2014, and waved placards calling on the VP to “immediately check out” and “save taxpayers’ money”.

Police then pounced on them and arrested Zvorwadza, Liberty William, Tendai Kagodora, Donald Mavhudzi and freelance journalists Garikai Chaunza, Christopher Mahove, James Jemwa, Khumbulani Zamchiya and Edgar Gweshe, accusing them of being party to the protests.

Hotel staff had to scurry for cover as the drama unfolded, leaving the guests exposed, as the protestors resisted arrest. The journalists and three other activists, serve for Zvorwadza, were later released without charge following the intervention of human rights lawyer Marufu Mandevere.

Zvorwadza was still detained at Harare Central Police Station last night. One of the protest organisers, Promise Mkwananzi, told NewsDay that Zvorwadza and the journalists were assaulted before they were bundled into police trucks and whisked away.

The protests came shortly after NewsDay reported that Mphoko had refused to move into a $3,5 million government mansion in Harare’s leafy Grange suburb, demanding more renovations to the property at a time Treasury was operating on a shoe-string budget and struggling to fund the civil servants wage bill.

“We are not intimidated by the police actions. We want to ensure the scarce resources we have are put to good use. We can’t have a VP staying in a hotel for two years and yet government has availed a house for him,” Mkwananzi said.
Both Mphoko and Minister of State in his office, Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, could not be reached for comment.

Efforts to contact national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba were also fruitless.

Opposition parties yesterday defended the protests targeted at Mphoko’s “profligacy” and vowed to continue piling pressure on the Zanu PF government to avoid unnecessary waste of State resources.

“Mphoko’s apparent love for living life on the fast lane is a monumental embarrassment not only to himself, but to all patriotic Zimbabweans. The man has so far proven to be a deal big joke!,” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

“The MDC-T is absolutely disturbed by Mphoko’s lack of respect and indeed, commiseration, with the majority of suffering Zimbabweans most of whom cannot even put one square meal on the table per day. Put simply, Mphoko is a national disgrace. He has been occupying a Presidential hotel suite at the Rainbow Towers in Harare at a minimum cost of $430 per day to the Treasury. With politicians and government officials in the mould of Mphoko, Zimbabwe’s socio-economic quagmire can only, but get worse and worse. The Zanu PF regime is struggling to pay civil servants their salaries and wages on time but we have a Vice-President who wants to lead the life of a celebrity at the expense of a bankrupt government. What a shame! What a disgrace!”

MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi condemned the arrest of civil society activists after they protested against Mphoko’s lavish lifestyle. 

“We view this as a blatant contempt of the Constitution that gives the people the permission to express themselves in a manner they want. The arrest and intimidation of human rights activists in Zimbabwe is not only criminal but a waste of time and resources since that will not stop the people of Zimbabwe from exercising their constitutional rights. President Robert Mugabe is now cornered and now facing more embarrassing protests until he steps down,” Chihwayi said. newsday


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