Zimbabwean police will be out “in full force” to deal with a planned national strike on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo said, hours after a Baptist preacher who leads a protest movement was arrested.
“Let me warn the instigators behind the intended protest that they will face the full wrath of the law,” Chombo told reporters on Tuesday in the capital, Harare. He accused some embassies of supporting anti-government demonstrations as part of “western-sponsored regime change agenda”.
Police earlier arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, 39, on charges of inciting violence after he helped to organise a nationwide strike on July 6. He’ll spend the night in police cells, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said.
Mawarire has repeatedly called for non-violent protests in the southern African nation and has demanded that corrupt ministers be fired and that civil servants be paid their salaries on time.
His #ThisFlag movement was one of several groups behind a strike on July 6 that brought much of the country to a halt.
Mawarire came to prominence in April when he draped a Zimbabwean flag over his shoulders and recorded a lament on the state of his nation on YouTube.
Last week’s strike followed a Finance Ministry announcement that it was delaying pay for state workers, including the military, and riots sparked by protests by taxi drivers over alleged police harassment. Police responded by unleashing dogs, firing tear gas and arresting 95 people.
Violent clashes also erupted at Zimbabwe’s main border post with South Africa, forcing its closure, when the government banned the import of certain goods.
President Robert Mugabe’s administration has faced a worsening cash shortage in recent months.
Since abandoning its own currency in 2009 to end hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has used mainly dollars, rands, euros, and pounds. The government spends about 83% of its revenue on wages, according to Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Chombo warned against similar protests on Wednesday.
“If you gather your friends and block cars, you will be arrested,” he said. “We want orderliness in this country.”