The Zanu PF government has come under attack for dismissing recent protests at the Beitbridge border post as the work of a hidden hand rather than genuine anger by Zimbabwean citizens.
Beitbridge informal traders late last week organised the protests to express their anger at government’s recent ban of a list of commodities from across the border that provided income to thousands of people through resale in Zimbabwe.
Government insists the ban is crucial to protect local businesses.
South Africans joined the demonstrations that turned violent when police denied the Beitbridge traders the chance to peacefully protest, and a warehouse being rented by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) at the post was burnt down.
Police say they have arrested more than 70 people and National Security minister, Kembo Mohadi, said they were carrying out investigations to establish the hidden hand or third force behind the protests.
Even though he did not say what the alleged hidden hand was, Mohadi implied that South Africans were involved.
“The way they carried out the operations (protests) is unlike Zimbabweans. Our people are known for holding peaceful demonstrations rather than vandalising properties or burning tyres,” said Mohadi.
The protesters blocked roads with objects and burnt tyres, the South African style.
But critics rapped government for burying its head in the sand and shifting the blame to other parties.
“This is the problem with Robert Mugabe’s government. These people mess things up and then try to find someone else to blame. They never want to accept responsibility for their bad decisions,” John Robertson, an economic consultant, told Nehanda Radio.
He added: “Government must just admit that it was wrong for it to ban imports. They increased duty on imports and that was bad enough. In any case, there are no factories to talk about that the government would want to protect.”
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC-N said in a statement on Monday that the protests in Beitbridge showed Zimbabweans’ anger at poor government policies.
“The MDC applauds the Zimbabweans who rose up in Beitbridge on Friday to protest against the ban on imports of basic commodities by the evil Zanu PF government.
“The border chaos is just the beginning of bigger problems for President Mugabe and Zanu PF and a reflection of the deep anger and discontent being felt by millions of Zimbabweans towards the failed regime,” said party spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi.
The Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) secretary general, Moses Chamboko, said: “Government is acting out of panic. It is shocked to see Zimbabweans organising themselves without the involvement of political parties.”
For close to two decades, Mugabe has been blaming the west of the political and economic crisis the country is going through.
Despite that, he admitted in March that his government failed to stop the leakage of $15 billion from the Marange diamond fields.
Zimbabwe owes international financial institutions and creditors some $10 billion and critics point out that the country could have made significant repayments from the gem money for it to be reconsidered for aid.