HARARE – Zimbabwe opposition leaders on Friday condemned police actions after they fired tear gas at them and hundreds of demonstrators as a protest against President Robert Mugabe descended into one of the worst outbreaks of violence in two decades.
Opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled the rally in their cars while protesters ran for cover as police firing tear gas and water cannons broke-up the core of the demonstration.
NERA Press conference
Tsvangirai takes to the podium
Police are accountable for the skirmishes that have taken place.
Tsvangirai says there are three people who have been kidnapped at the Zanu Pf headquarters and are still there.
Morgan Tsvangirai says the High Court judgement has set a precedence for future demonstrations as it states clearly that people exercising their constitutional rights must not be interfered with.
15:18 Didymus Mutasa now giving his speech.
Mutasa explains that they were there when teargas was being thrown.
Didymus Mutasa says State broke its own law by descending on people peacefully gathered for a demonstration that was sanctioned by the High Court.
He says they are going to convene another demonstration next Friday.
The court order was very specific that we were allowed to proceed with our march from 12:00pm to 4:00pm.
Mutasa reads out the high court order.
We also want to appeal to SADC that in their next session they are going to take this matter. Those that are demonstrating will not end there, they will go to AU and UN.
Clashes then spread through the streets of Harare as riot police fought running battles with protesters who hurled rocks at officers, set tyres ablaze and burned a popular market to the ground, in some of the worst unrest since food riots in 1998.
“Mugabe’s rule must end now, that old man has failed us,” said one protester before throwing a rock at a taxi.
Mugabe’s opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment. Mugabe, 92, has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
More than a hundred police officers in riot gear, backed up by water cannons and armoured trucks, occupied the venue that opposition parties planned to use for their demonstration.
As opposition supporters arrived for the march, they were told by the police to leave. The officers then fired teargas and a water cannon when parts of the crowd refused to comply.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she was still to get details on Friday’s protest.
“Demonstrating is the only solution left to force the dictator out of office,” said Tapfuma Make, an unemployed 24-year-old from Chitungwiza town, south of the capital Harare.
POLICE DEFY COURT
Zimbabwe’s High Court earlier ruled that police should allow the protest to proceed between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (1000-1400 GMT) in what Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called a “victory for democracy”.
MDC secretary general and lawyer Douglas Mwonzora said the police had disregarded the court order and accused ZANU-PF youths of infiltrating the crowd to disrupt the protest.
Opposition parties leading the protests say the electoral commission is biased in favour of the ruling ZANU-PF and is run by security agencies loyal to Mugabe, charges the commission denies.
The protesters want the next vote in 2018 to be supervised by international observers, including the United Nations. They are also calling for Mugabe to fire corrupt ministers, scrap plans to introduce local bank notes and end cash shortages.
The latest demonstrations come nearly two months after the biggest large scale ‘stay at home’ strike in Zimbabwe since 2007, inspired by social media movements such as #ThisFlag led by pastor Evan Mawarire.
Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday called opposition leaders “foreign agents” using protests to cause chaos in order to justify international intervention in Zimbabwe’s affairs.
Zimbabwe’s police used teargas and a water cannon on Wednesday to break-up a march by MDC youth supporters who were protesting over economic mismanagement and what they say is brutality by security agencies.
15:13 A clothing shop at corner Takawira and Robert Mugabe has been vandalised and looted.
Bata shop at corner bank Takawira street faced e same predicament…..There is now a looting spree in e cbd with police consistently throwing tear gas to force pipo to leave twn
13:49 A soldier has reportedly stoned to death a protester near Copacabana Terminus along Jason Moyo, sparking renewed skirmishes.
13:17 Bloody clashes between suspected Zanu pf youths and MDC-T at Copacabana.
12:06 Corner Jason Moyo and Rotten Row has been barricaded as police appear to have lost the battle against the determined youths
12:04 Chinhoyi way no longer a one way system as traffic is flowing in every direction as they flee away from police who are running battles with the protesters.
11:34 Traffic volume out of town increases.
11:30 MDC T youths have literally taken over the main entrance into the city centre via Samora Machel with barricades from Rekai Tangwena Ave.
11:20 Traffic officers atthe showgrounds are instructing drivers to make a U-turn. A water cannon, which is capable of destroying the barricade, has driven past and did not destroy it.
11:04 One of the supporters beaten inside the court
11:01 Police stopping protesters despite a high court reprieve.
Breaking: High Court clears Nera Demo.
10:59An old woman runs as police put on a chase.
10:54The road that leads into the Freedom Square has been barricaded.
10:38 Police appear ready to descend on the singing youths.
10:37 Police have caused commotion at the court after they descended on everyone at the court.
10:32 Youths are singing in front of a water cannon.👆🏼
10:20 With instructions from a senior police officer, police are asking people to move towards the court area but the people are resisting and daring the police water cannon them.
10:18 Meanwhile there are reports that trouble is also brewing in the city centre.
10:17 People are all over the square and youths are regrouping each time the police disperse them.
09:44 Demonstrators have gathered at the Magistrates Court as police have cordoned off the Freedom Square where the protest was supposed to start from.
09:43 They are firing teargas canisters and beating up anyone who attempts to move into the square.
Police dispersing protesters from Freedom Square throwing tear gars #GrandDemo
By 9 a.m there was a heavy presence of police all over Harare with multiple roadblocks on major roads leading into the Central Business District.
The Freedom Square, where the protesters are converging, is manned by anti-riot police who are reportedly forcing people to move out of the area.
Zimbabwe anti-government protests: A Timeline.
Journalist-turned-activist Itai Dzamara calls on Mugabe to step down and begins his lonely Occupy Africa Unity Square protest. He is abducted from a barber’s shop in March 2015 and has not been seen since.
Kariba pastor Patrick Mugadza is arrested for staging a one-man demo in Victoria Falls. His placard reads: “Mr President, the people are suffering.”
April 14, 2016:
Around 3 000 MDC supporters march through Harare to protest poverty, joblessness, missing diamond revenue etc. The size of the demonstration takes the authorities by surprise. Riot police were out in full force but did not attack the demonstrators.
Pastor Evan Mawarire records his first #ThisFlag video and launches a game-changing online protest movement.