Police “must do their job” when faced with violent protests being advocated by opposition political parties and shadowy opposition groups in Zimbabwe, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Catriona Laing said yesterday.
She said while the police should be impartial when executing their duties, protesters should know that any democratic country abhorred the burning of property, looting of shops and attacks on innocent people.Ms Laing was speaking after paying a courtesy call on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe at his Munhumutapa offices.
Asked about what police should do when faced with violent protests like the one carried out by MDC-T and its allies recently, the envoy said: “We have made it clear that we condemn all violence. Of course, it is absolute right for people to protest as the Constitution says. It must be peaceful and the police response must be totally proportionate. We totally condemn the recent horrible violence we have seen . . .but we condemn violence from wherever it comes. It’s in the Constitution and people must have the right to protest peacefully. Police must do their job but there are matters of crowd control that do not require the use of violence.”
Opposition parties, led by MDC-T and Zimbabwe People First under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA), two weeks ago unleashed an orgy of violence, looting shops and burning vehicles.
Police officers on duty and innocent citizens going about their business were attacked.
Britain and other Western countries have been fingered as funders of the violent protests as part of their regime change agenda.
Dr Mushohwe said with violence, opposition parties would never govern Zimbabwe as only people-oriented programmes, as exhibited by Zanu-PF, win the hearts of the people.
“I told her that if they think violence on the streets will win the hearts of Zimbabweans, they are mistaken,” he said.
“I can assure the opposition that if they think burning vehicles, looting people’s shops who are trying to eke out a living (is the way to go), they must as well forget it. They will be in opposition forever. If they want to be in power they must do the right things for the people of Zimbabwe.”
The duo is known for engineering violent street “protests” in North and West Africa.
Said Ms Laing: “It’s completely fabricated, it’s a totally made up story. There is absolutely no trace whatsoever, we do not support any protest movements. We certainly don’t have spies here. We had a team here which was looking at aviation security and trying to assist the Government of Zimbabwe. The story that there were spies here is completely fabricated.”
Dr Mushohwe said he had clarified to Ms Laing that the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime law being mooted by Government was not intended to “kill” freedom of expression, but to thwart terrorist activities.
“I did indicate that perhaps people are getting wrong impressions about the intentions behind this Bill,” he said.
“This Bill is not intended to kill freedom of expression, it is not intended to silence people. I said to her even Britain has a similar piece of legislation. If anything, this is intended to ensure we join other nations in fighting the threat of terrorism.
“We do not want information to be transited through Zimbabwe or information here that threatens the national security of other countries.”
Dr Mushohwe said Ms Laing had also raised concern over what she termed Government policy inconsistency, supporting her assertion with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review pronouncements on civil service rationalisation.
“I told her that whenever Government policy of that seriousness is taken, it passes through stages of Government, including Cabinet and Cabinet rejected it,” he said.
“I told her that President Mugabe has a lot of confidence in the Minister of Finance and we all admire him, feel for him because his job is not an easy one. As a Government, we do things according to procedures and if those procedures are attended to there will be no problems.
“I did allay the ambassador’s worries that it’s a procedural matter and it is not meant to slow down the efforts being made by the Bretton Woods institutions and Minister Chinamasa, assisted by the ambassador who is doing a wonderful piece of work to try and make sure the re-engagement process becomes a reality,’’ Dr Mushohwe said.