The government has warned it will not hesitate to use brutal force on people who are out to destroy the country’s security infrastructure.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana told the Business Times this week:
“In situations where there is chaos and anarchy of this nature, and lawlessness, there is normally no bounds as to how much people will go. There have been fatalities, may be four, which includes security services.
We are having police stations raided, attacked and attempts to steal weapons from the police armory in major cities. The police have the right to defend these institutions. In any country you go to the penalty for killing a police officer could be three times harder and harsher than that of attacking an ordinary citizen because of what the police represent. A police officer symbolises law and order.”
He added that attacks on security services are a threat to the country’s stability.
“If people attack police stations, there is a likelihood that deadly force maybe used to defend those police stations because once those police stations have been taken over then our way of life and civilisation will be offside and no-one can allow that. An attack on a police officer may not end well.”
This comes after a police station in Marondera and a tollgate along Masvingo road just outside Harare were set on fire.
In Bulawayo, one police officer was stoned to death by protesters.
The protests began on Monday and ended on Thursday.
On suggestions that President Emmerson Mnangagwa should have cut short his four-nation visit, Mangwana says Zimbabwe is a thriving democracy run by strong institutions and not strong men.
The President is in Eurasia for engagements in Russia, Azberjan, Karzarkstan and eventually Switzerland where he will attend the annual World Economic Forum.
“Those are the same people who have been saying they want to be led not by strong men, but institutions. The institutions of state are in place to run the country. The President is in constant command of the country, right now, wherever he is. He does not stop being the President just because he has flown out of the country, “ Mangwana said.
“Yes; there might be somebody in charge while he is not there, but he is briefed and gives direction to the country while he is away.”
On the internet blackout, he said it is a ‘normal practice’ when there are threats to the nation’s stability.
“July 7th 2005 when London was under multiple attacks which were coordinated via telephones, London was on a total black-out for many hours,” Mangwana said.
“Again London was attacked by riotous in 2011 and Blackberry Messenger was used to coordinate the attacks, the same operational decision was made. Even telephones were not working. It is a decision meant to protect people and property.”
Mangwana told the Business Times that due process was followed.
“That is not a decision taken lightly, l am not saying that is the decision which was made, if it was made, l would understand why. There are reasons. Normally these reasons go to even an independent adjudicator meaning to a magistrate or a judge who issues a warrant for people to be switched off. In this instance, l am aware of the message you are referring to (Econet). Should that message be genuine, then it means due process was followed within the confines of our law enabling access to information. That will not have been taking lightly, but to safeguard lives and people who are being extorted of money at fake roadblocks.”
So far, more than six hundred have been arrested in connection with the violence that rocked the country.