Opposition mass protests against deepening economic problems in Zimbabwe were called off on Friday after a court upheld an 11th hour ban imposed by the police.
Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had vowed to launch protests marches on Friday against the worsening economy, despite government threats to stop them.
Late on Thursday police said the protests had been banned.
The MDC went to court in the early hours of Friday to challenge the ban, but lost the case.
“The court has said the demonstration should be off,” MDC spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said.
The party’s vice president Tendai Biti told reporters outside the high court that “we differ respectfully with the ruling”.
“The fascist regime has denied the right for Zimbabweans to demonstrate,” said Biti.
He added that even if they had won “this march was not going to take place because the city has been cordoned off” by police.
Blocked roads and traffic
Armed police formed barricades around the city on Friday, turning back cars on streets leading to the MDC’s party headquarters, with road blocks also set up elsewhere in the capital.
Long queues of traffic formed as the police searched cars and commuter buses for weapons.
Teams of riot police also carried out patrols and randomly stopped and searched pedestrians.
A crowd which had gathered in central Harare before the MDC decision was dispersed by police, Bloomberg reported. A woman was reportedly injured in the stampede.
The planned protests would have been the first since rallies in January against Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices that ended in deadly clashes with troops.
As the Zimbabwean economy deteriorates, people are facing shortages of basic goods and skyrocketing prices.
Around five million people – almost a third of the country’s 16 million population – are in need of aid and at least half of them are on the cusp of “starvation”, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on August 6.