TODAY’S “one million men and women march” in Harare by war veterans supporting President Robert Mugabe’s candidature in next year’s el
ection will seriously disrupt critical industrial and commercial activities due to the diversion and abuse of state resources when the economy is in a deep crisis.
The Zimbabwe Independent has it on good authority that the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) yesterday suspended the movement of goods trains which ferry coal from Hwange to various centres as well as grain to the southern parts of the country.
This was meant to create free passage for trains expected to move party supporters to Harare. It is also understood that locomotives for goods trains have been diverted to haul passenger train coaches.
A highly placed source in the NRZ said technicians were ordered to ensure a smooth passage for passenger trains from Chiredzi, Victoria Falls and Mutare despite the usual problems with signaling systems.
The source said the suspension of goods trains would remain in place until Monday and that this had presented logistical problems for technicians.
However, NRZ spokesman Fanual Masikati on Wednesday told the media that his organisation was ready to transport the marchers.
“As the national rail transporter, we are geared for the event and we have pooled together our resources to fully support this historic event,” he was quoted as saying.
Over 150 buses from the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company and private organisations will ferry the supporters, a development that will create a shortage of public transport on a number of routes.
The Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions is reported to have issued a circular to companies urging employers to release workers to join the march. However, no official comment could be obtained from the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce on the issue.
Officials from retail outlets yesterday said they were not going to open for business until after the march for security reasons, while employees in government departments said they had been instructed to join the march.
The route for the march, which starts near Rainbow Towers Hotel on western end of the city through Samora Machel Avenue, down Julius Nyerere Way, up Charter Road into Simon Mazorodze, is usually busy and a huge traffic jam is expected.
The route map was not advertised earlier in accordance with local authority by-laws.
Harare provincial police spokesman Inspector James Sabau said police officers would be deployed on the route.
Harare residents and individual businessmen who spoke on conditions of anonymity yesterday said it was a waste of public funds that would also affect business operations and the free movement of people and traffic in the city.
“Where is the money to transport, feed and accommodate all these people coming from? How can we have a public enterprise like the NRZ providing free transport to supporters of a particular political party?
“This is gross abuse of public funds by the ruling party,” alleged one man.
However, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda has maintained that funding for the marches is being mobilised from party members and well-wishers.
Another resident said the march demonstrated double standards by the police on political gatherings.
“Our police force is partisan. It is always refusing to clear meetings by opposition parties, yet it ensures that Zanu PF is well covered. When opposition groups organise similar marches, they are crushed and people are arrested and assaulted by the same police force.
“I think this presents a challenge for the opposition forces to organise a similar march and see how they will be treated by the police and public enterprises like the NRZ,” he said.