Opposition protests turned violent on Wednesday in central Harare as Zimbabwean police fired teargas and used water cannons and baton sticks to disperse demonstrators protesting against police brutality and the economic crisis facing the country.
The country is in a precarious situation, and pressure is mounting on the Zanu PF led government following a series of protests from opposition groups, civil servants, vendors, and various civic movements.
Wednesday’s protests saw more than 200 youths from the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, taking to the streets under the #MyZimbabwe campaign calling for the police to stop its violent crackdown on protesters. The youths were also marching against the economic crisis in the country.
The protesters were met with teargas, water cannons and baton sticks as the police descended on protesters, but the youths fought back. Several shops in central Harare were looted, a police car was burnt, and the state broadcaster ZBC had one of its vehicle torched during the violent protests.
Barely three weeks have passed since various groups engaged in another anti-government protest, marching against unemployment, police brutality, proposed introduction of Bond Notes, corruption and the perilous state of the economy. Protesters were severely beaten by the police on their way to the parliament building, and several journalists covering the protests were also beaten by the police.
The violent crackdown on protesters by the police has been criticised by the opposition and civic organisations. Only last week, MDC parliamentarian Nelson Chamisa made a fruitless attempt to introduce a motion on police brutality, but parliament could not debate the motion in the National Assembly, because quorum could not be reached as Zanu PF MPs walked out.
Police Brutality today. This is progress according to the former colonial master pic.twitter.com/0CWzbtPjNw
— TENDAI BITI (@BitiTendai) August 17, 2016
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has also previously condemned the use of violence by the police, and party leader Tendai Biti noted with grave concern the continued “use of brute force and teargas to break the demonstrations”.