Zimbabwe protest turns violent after police try dispersing the crowd

A Zimbabwe police vehicle burned in the streets. (Photo credit: Garikai Chaunza)

Police in Zimbabwe on forcibly dispersed another peaceful demonstration Wednesday organized by the political opposition. Hundreds of people from the Movement for Democratic Change’s youth wing had gathered to protest police brutality following the violent crackdown of previous marches. The violence in the street is a sign of growing discontent against Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old president who has been in power since 1980. FSRN’s Garikai Chaunza reports from the capital Harare.

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The procession of 200 youths assembled Wednesday at the party’s head offices in central Harare where they planned to deliver a petition to the Home Affairs Minister.

In recent weeks, police have been beating up peaceful rallies staged by people anxious about Zimbabwe’s worsening economic crisis. The petition said it granted the police chief one week to apologize to the nation for his officer’s past brutality.

But before leaders could make a speech, riot police moved in with water cannons, tear gas and batons to clear the street.

Some protesters retaliated by throwing stones at the armed police before being blanketed by a wall of tear gas. The scene quickly devolved with shops burnt and looted in the chaos in central Harare.

Happymore Chidziva, a leader of the opposition’s youth wing, told reporters that real reforms are needed and Zimbabwe can’t wait for elections almost two years away and there are suspicions about rigged elections.

“2018 is far away, and elections are not only the way of removing a democratically-elected government or president from power in a democracy,” explains Chidziva. “This current government was not even democratically-elected. Peaceful protests are a legal means of removing governments from power.”

Political tensions are rising as a crushing cash shortage makes day-to-day commerce difficult in the country. But the ruling party of President Mugabe is clamping down reflexively and the opposition complains that it’s not being allowed to campaign freely even as discontent in the southern African country grows.

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