Thursday 21 November 2019


POLICE yesterday brutally attacked MDC supporters, people waiting in bank queues and passers-by in Harare’s central business district, using baton sticks, tear gas and water canons to block opposition leader Nelson Chamisa from delivering a speech.

In a move which MDC deputy president Tendai Biti hoped would attract the ire of Sadc, South Africa and the international community, armed riot police pummelled and injured a handful of supporters who had gathered outside their party headquarters.

“We don’t accept this, we are not a terrorist organisation, we are not a fascist organisation. Since 2017, we have seen the closure of our political space because of (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa,” Biti said. 

“We don’t accept this. We say no to fascism. We say no to this madness. Sadc must be watching this, Dr (Stergomena) Tax (Sadc executive secretary) must be watching this. President (Cyril) Ramaphosa must be watching this. This is not acceptable and must stop.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said the government was shooting itself in the foot by violently cracking down on democracy.

“These are the self-imposed sanctions we keep talking about, pathetic. Then you have the nerve to run around like a headless chicken asking others to remove their measures against you when you are busy subjugating and brutalising your own people, giving the external players the excuse and rationale to keep their sanctions in place,” Mutambara said. 

“It is called strategic incoherence.”In the  past few months, the police have blocked MDC rallies and demonstrations at least nine times, alleging that their meetings were happening at a time Zimbabweans were suffering under a heavy economic crisis and, therefore, could turn violent.

Yesterday’s attack started soon after Chamisa arrived at the party headquarters to deliver his Hope of the Nation Address (HONA) amid rapturous welcome. 

The opposition leader had to walk past a bulwark of riot police officers who blocked access to the party headquarters at both ends of the street, trapping everyone in-between.
Aided by two water canon trucks and five police vans filled with officers in riot gear, the men in uniform did not spare anyone.

They beat up even the elderly and journalists, with the bashing extending to shoppers and hundreds of people who were queuing at banks to get their measly daily allocation of the new local currency.

Before the attacks, police approached the MDC leadership fronted by Chamisa’s spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, telling them to order their supporters into Harvest House or leave the streets.

They also demanded that the supporters stop toyi-toying and singing on the pavements alleging that they were agitating other members of the public; but Sibanda pleaded constitutionalism.

“We have the right to freedom of movement and association, we are at our headquarters and surely we can sing. We respect your desire for peace and we can assure you that as long as the police do not sponsor violence against the people of Zimbabwe, there will be peace here,” Sibanda said. 

Police then suddenly ran amok, sounding sirens across town and attacking ordinary people conducting their business some 200 metres away from the MDC headquarters, leaving eight seriously injured, while many others lost personal belongings in the melee.

There was also heavy police presence at Africa Unity Square, where people were cleared out and told they could not even use the facility for recreational purposes because Chamisa had initially planned to deliver his HONA there.

He then later shifted the venue to the party’s headquarters, where he had hoped to deliver it from the balcony of the second floor of the party building.

A group of young lawyers condemned the brutal police attack, saying it violated the Constitution and placed Zimbabwe on the path of a pariah State.

“We deplore the excessive use of force and indiscriminate violence by the police against their own country men and women and again call upon the State to hold those responsible to account,” reads a statement from Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe.

“There is no legal or moral basis for the police brutality witnessed this morning (yesterday) regardless of whether people were legally gathered or not, the conduct of the police violated the constitutional right to freedom from violence in terms of section 52 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
But national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said initially, the MDC had notified the police that they wanted to have the event at Africa Unit Square.

Nyathi said after a consultative process with conveners and stakeholders, they agreed to shift the venue to an open space next to the Harare Showgrounds, commonly known as Freedom Square, and they were given the greenlight.

“Only late last night (Tuesday), they cancelled their public meeting for reasons known to them. The police are in possession of the letter. Only today (yesterday) in the morning, people gathered at Harvest House and, in the process, were told by the police that they should disperse because there was no notification,” he said.

“Police tried to negotiate with the people, but they refused and were toyi-toying. As the police tried to disperse them, they stoned the officers and injured one policeman.”

Nyathi said the police were open to investigate allegations that they assaulted journalists and ran amok beating people indiscriminately around town.

“Those who have information on this, we urge them to go and report to the officer commanding Harare province so that we can investigate the conduct of our police. I also encourage the journalist to report the assault to the police,” he said. Newsday


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