Anti-government protests cripple Harare streets

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EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: Crowd surged in streets in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare to protest against failing economy and political situation, despite police warning and court ban.

Scores of people were injured in the Friday protest, where anti-government protesters fought pitched battle with the police.

Earlier, Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had called off its plan for street protest, after a top court upheld police ban on demonstration.

The protest was to have been the first in a series planned by the MDC, against the country’s deteriorating economic and political situation.

But despite police warnings and court ban, crowds swarmed Harare streets, where they were confronted by the police, which used teargas shells and batons, to disperse the mob.

A handful of protesters were injured. A picture of a seriously injured woman lying motionless on the ground is making rounds in the social media.

Witnesses said the Journalists covering the event were choked with smoke. A reporter Fani Mapfumo of the ZimMorningPost — an online newspaper — was also reportedly beaten.

The country’s High Court had rejected the application from the opposition party, to declare the planned protest action to be legal.

Police had warned to use punitive actions against protesters, under various provisions of public order and security.

“Please be advised that, after due consideration and meetings held with the convener and his legal advisors, the regulatory authority has issued a prohibition notice against the holding of the demonstrations on Aug 16 in Harare Central Business District,” Police Spokesperson and Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said in the statement.

The MCD Spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda, said the court has sided with the government and against the constitutional rights. “This means that Zimbabwe is under an official armed lock down,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary of Information, Nick Mangwana, said the woman, whose pictures were being circulated in social media, was actually injured in a stampede, rather in police action. “The woman was taken to hospital and efforts are underway to establish her condition,” he said.

The MDC Deputy President, Tendai Biti, expressed surprise that while the police told the court, that they do not have enough manpower, on Friday they had enough personnel on the streets to cordon off the entire city of Harare.

Taking note of the alleged heavy handedness of the police, the U.K. has called for a restrain. “Concerned at the images of the heavy handed response to disperse crowds in Harare. Demonstrations must be peaceful, but we urge the security forces to show restraint and ensure response is proportionate,” the British Embassy in Harare, posted a message on twitter.

The 77-year old President Emmerson Mnangagwa had assumed office with the promises of initiating political and economic reforms.

But soon after the 2018 polls, the army shot and killed six civilians. The heavy-handedness was repeated last January to quell anti-government protests, leaving 17 people dead.

Amnesty International on Friday accused Zimbabwe’s president of repeating some of the brutal tactics as employed by the former government of Robert Mugabe.

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