HARARE – Zimbabwean police deployed water cannon and anti-riot officers on the streets of the capital on Wednesday ahead of a planned demonstration by opposition parties against changes to the voter registration process.
Anti-government protests in August descended into some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades as anger over economic hardship boiled over.
Opposition parties united under a National Election Reform Agenda (NERA) banner are campaigning against a government decision to take over the purchase of biometric voter registration kits from the United Nations.
They fear this will make it easier for President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party to skew the list of eligible voters in its favour.
Police have allowed the NERA protest march on the outskirts of downtown Harare but have prevented it from heading through the city centre to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Opposition parties say ZEC is biased in favour of ZANU-PF and is run by security agents loyal to the 93-year-old Mugabe. ZEC denies the allegations.
Zimbabwe is due to hold its next presidential and parliamentary election by July 2018. Mugabe has been endorsed as the ruling party’s presidential candidate.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)