The brute force used by the police to put down recent anti-government protests proves that the government “wants to declare a state of emergency”, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said Monday.
“The horrifying images of the police attacking innocent citizens in central Harare last Wednesday and Friday, is an indication that we now have a police state contrary to the country’s Constitution,” party spokesman Jacob Mafume said in a statement.
“The Zanu PF regime wants to take Zimbabwe to that era and deprive Zimbabweans their democratic rights of holding peaceful demonstrations and freedom of association and expression.”
Police fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators at last Friday’s protest in Harare before unrest swept across large parts of the capital. The High Court sanctioned the protest which was organised by the opposition to demand reforms ahead of fresh elections in 2018.
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 tear gas and water cannon when parts of the crowd refused to comply.
Close to 70 activists were arrested in the ensuing clashes with the police and they were refused bail when they appeared before a Harare magistrate on Monday.
Activists refused bail
Around 100 riot police stood outside the court house in downtown Harare, accompanied by water cannon and armored cars. Officers blocked relatives of the accused and members of the public from getting in. Police arrested three people waving banners criticising the 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe outside the courts.
“More shocking is that heavily armed police officers have also blocked people from attending the bail hearing of 75 citizens who were illegally arrested on Friday in central Harare,” said PDP’s Mafume.
“We denounce the use of threats of violence by Zanu PF youths who were on Sunday in the presence of the police and yet no action was taken.
“The state media has also joined in issuing threats of violence and peddling falsehoods by accusing opposition parties of training terrorist.”
President Mugabe’s opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment. Mafume said the Zanu PF regime was now in panic mode.
“It is clear that the Zanu PF government has panicked and will try to use all evil acts including shedding of innocent blood as it tries to suppress the citizens’ democratic rights. As PDP, we say no the declaration of a state of emergency and we say to a police state,” he said.
“As PDP, we therefore urgent the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), to urgently intervene because there is going to be loss of life in Zimbabwe.”
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