POLICE “must do their job” when faced with violent protests being advocated by opposition political parties and shadowy groups in the country, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Catriona Laing, said yesterday.
She said while the police should be impartial when executing their duties, protestors should know that any democratic country abhorred burning of properties, 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 the police should do when faced with violent protests like the one carried out by the MDC-T and its allies recently, the envoy said:
“We’ve made it clear that we condemn all violence. Of course it is absolutely 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’ve 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 don’t require the use of violence.”
Opposition parties — led by the MDC-T and Zimbabwe People First under the banner of 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 also attacked.
Britain and other Western countries have been fingered as the 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, won the hearts of the masses.
“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 when they 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.”
Ms Laing denied funding protestors and that two British nationals, Samuel Hamilton Adamson and Gordon Donald Birnie recently sneaked into the country to review the violent demonstrations.
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 don’t 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 the 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’s 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 don’t want information to be transmitted 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 reengagement process becomes a reality.”-Herald