CHAOS returned to Harare (today) Wednesday as anti-riot police clashed with youths from the opposition MDC-T party who were demonstrating against increasing police brutality.
Violence erupted after the police intercepted the demonstrators who were marching to the Ministry of Home Affairs offices at Mukwati Building where they wanted to handover a petition to Minister Ignatius Chombo.
The police invited the ire of the MDC-T youths after they fired teargas at the procession close to the Mkwati building, sending the demonstrators and other passersby scurrying for cover.
The demonstrators responded by hurling stones at the police, igniting running battles that spilled back into the Central Building District along Nelson Mandela Avenue, which houses the MDC-T Headquarters.
The youths blocked Nelson Mandela Avenue at its intersection with First Street with huge stones in a bid to stop vehicles with water cannons from driving towards their head office.
The anti-riot police fired teargas canisters everywhere while indiscriminately assaulting people, including non-protesters going about their daily business, among them vendors.
Women with babies on their backs were also caught in the cross fire, forcing them to run for cover at nearby shops, while others rushed to fetch water from a nearby food outlet which they used to reduce the effects of the teargas smoke, which had engulfed the greater part of the CBD.
Freelance Journalist, Lucy Yasini, was among those assaulted by the police, this despite presenting her press card.
Yasini said she was only rescued by some plain clothes police officers who identified her and restrained the anti-riot police from assaulting her further.
In the ensuing melee, Choppies Supermarket at the corner of Rezende Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue was looted. The supermarket chain is run by vice president Phelekezela Mphoko.
The water cannons and truckloads of anti-riot police were later seen driving towards Choppies supermarket in downtown Harare ostensibly to protect it from further looting.
The police later unleashed the water cannons and fought running battles with the protesters for the better part of the afternoon.
MDC-T Youth Assembly secretary general, Lovemore Chinoputsa, said the police had provoked the situation by trying to crush a peaceful procession.
“The police disturbed our march as we approached Mukwati building and started assaulting people indiscriminately. They chased everyone they came across and assaulted innocent people and I am told they continued harassing people even after we had dispersed,” he said.
He said as a result they had failed to deliver their petition, adding a number of the protesters had been arrested in the commotion but was not sure where they were taken to.
“We will continue with our demonstrations until they give in to our demands. We want them to stop brutalizing innocent people and we want Mugabe to go because he has become a liability to the country,” Chinoputsa said.
He added that if all democratic forces in the country sustained pressure on the regime, it would see sense in what they were calling for.
He called upon SADC and the international community to intervene in the country’s crisis before the situation got out of hand.
“We are saying to SADC and the international community you cannot let us continue to be brutalized while you watch, you need to be doing something,” he said.
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Inspector Charity Charamba, refused to comment on the violence, saying she was in a meeting. – ANA