Zimbabwe police use tear gas, batons to disperse opposition supporters

Wednesday November 20 2019

An anti-riot police man in Zimbabwe tackles a woman with his boot in Harare.

An anti-riot police man in Zimbabwe tackles a woman with his boot as police dispersed a crowd gathered to hear an address by leader of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance, Nelson Chamisa in Harare, on November 20, 2019. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP 

REUTERS
By REUTERS
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Zimbabwean police on Wednesday used batons, tear gas and water cannons to beat up and disperse supporters of the main opposition party who had gathered outside the party building in the capital to listen to a speech by their leader.

The latest police action comes as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa of adopting the heavy-handed tactics of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe who died on September 5.

An anti-riot police man in Zimbabwe beats a man
An anti-riot police man in Zimbabwe beats a man with a shambok as they dispersed a crowd gathered to hear an address by leader of the MDC(Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance Nelson Chamisa in Harare on November 20, 2019. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

On Sunday, Mnangagwa defended his record in an opinion piece carried by CNBC Africa, saying his administration was opening up political and media space.

But police have this year banned several MDC gatherings, saying they feared the events would turn violent.

Anti-riot police men in Zimbabwe beat a man
Anti-riot police men in Zimbabwe beat a man with their baton sticks as they dispersed a crowd gathered to hear an address by leader of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, at Morgan Tsvangirai House the party headquarters, in Harare, on November 20, 2019. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

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Hundreds of police blocked roads leading to MDC headquarters in Harare but supporters continued to gather, singing and chanting before the arrival of party leader Nelson Chamisa, who was set to address them.

A few minutes after Chamisa entered the party building, police charged the crowd with batons and fired tear gas, causing a stampede, according to Reuters witnesses.

Police officers declined to comment.

Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader of the
Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, at the Morgan Tsvangirai House the party headquarters, in Harare, on November 20, 2019. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

MDC officials said the skirmishes once again showed that the opposition party was a victim of government brutality.

“The MDC strongly condemns that violent attack by the police on citizens who had peacefully gathered outside our (headquarters). This kind of barbaric brutality is totally unacceptable in Zimbabwe,” MDC national spokesman Daniel Molokelo said in a statement.

Political tension is rising in Zimbabwe, where the population is grappling with a severe economic crisis that has seen rolling power cuts lasting up to 18 hours a day, and shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines.

Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader of the
Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, at the Morgan Tsvangirai House the party headquarters, in Harare, on November 20, 2019. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

Most public sector doctors have been on a strike over pay since September, which has paralysed government hospitals where the poor seek treatment. Other public sector workers are demanding US dollar-indexed salaries to protect them from soaring inflation.

Critics say Mnangagwa has failed to keep promises he made during last year’s election campaign to revive the economy by pushing through economic reforms, attracting foreign investment to create jobs and rebuilding collapsing infrastructure.

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