|25. August 2016
Police turns joint opposition demonstration into Chaos
A Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) demonstration against police brutality degenerated into chaos in Harare as anti-riot police engaged in running battles with protesters.
The chaos resulted in a Choppies Supermarket store owned by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko being looted along Nelson Mandela Street; a police car being torched along Harare Street; and a ZBC van being set ablaze along Julius Nyerere Way.
All shops in Harare’s central business districts closed, unsuspecting commuters were caught unawares at Market Square bus terminus after police water cannons indiscriminately poured coloured water on crowds while throwing tear gas.
There has been growing outrage and condemnation over unprovoked attacks on peaceful protesters by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who have been using brute force to suppress public protests.
Organisers of yesterday’s protests had to seek permission from the High Court to proceed with the MDC-T Youth Assembly demonstration, which started at the party’s headquarters at Harvest House, along Nelson Mandela Street.
The protest was scheduled to end at the Ministry of Home Affairs offices at Mukwati Building with the submission of a petition to Minister Ignatius Chombo.
Before they embarked on the march, protesters were addressed by the MDC-T national youth chairperson, Happymore Chidziva, who took the opportunity to launch #MyZimbabwe campaign, a peaceful and legal protest platform whose main aim is to safeguard the dignity, national pride and identity of Zimbabweans.
Chidziva said the platform was an opportunity for any Zimbabwean, regardless of political affiliation to come and make their voice count. He bemoaned the crisis in the country and called on all progressive citizens to work together for the betterment of Zimbabwe.
“More than 20 000 people lost their jobs, those that are still employed are not getting their salaries. We have been dehumanised and the system has stripped us of our sense of empathy, decency, kindness and greatness. We, as MDC-T youths, today bring in an action plan of liberating our motherland from the jaws of tyranny. We cannot stand and watch this tomfoolery. History might judge us harshly,” he said.
He proceeded to chide the police, asking them to apologise to the people of Zimbabwe for the pain they have caused within six days or face unspecified action from the youths. After his address, the MDC-T youth leaders led the demonstrators from the front, as the march gathered momentum.
Protesters, both young and old, including others from opposition parties such as the Zimbabwe People First joined the band of protesters marching towards Mukwati building via the Parliament of Zimbabwe, where they stopped briefly, chanting anti-government mantra and calling upon President Mugabe, who has been at the helm of the country since independence in 1980, to step down.
Hundreds of placard-waving demonstrators, who had gathered at Harvest House sang and danced, denouncing the ZANU-PF government and called for a better Zimbabwe. Some of the placards read: “Stop police brutality”, “Arrest corruption,” and “Stop abusing war veterans”, in apparent reference to the incessant fights between war veterans and the ruling ZANU-PF party over President Robert Mugabe’s succession.
The protest, however, suffered a stillbirth when anti-riot police who had kept a watchful eye on proceedings pounced on the unsuspecting demonstrators, firing teargas and sending both demonstrators and passersby scurrying for cover within the vicinity of Kaguvi and Mukwati building near Fourth Street.
Some members of the anti-riot police jumped off their truck and headed towards defiant protesters who had stood their ground. The protesters eventually fled, fearing brutal attacks from the police. A few of the unfortunate protesters were picked up by the police. The resultant chaos soon spread to the rest of the city into late afternoon yesterday.