The Zimbabwean police dispersed hundreds of supporters of the country’s main opposition party, who had come to listen to a speech by their president, tearing up tear gas and batons in Harare on Wednesday, an AFP journalist said.
The intervention of the police has caused several injuries in the crowd, according to the same source.
« Several people were beaten and injured, » lamented AFP Daniel Molokele, the spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. « We condemn, in the strongest terms, the brutality of the police ».
Having been banned by the authorities from meeting in one of the capital’s squares, several hundred MDC sympathizers gathered Wednesday morning in front of the party headquarters to listen to a speech by their leader, Nelson Chamisa, about the state of the country, mired in a catastrophic economic crisis.
Large numbers of police, armed with two water cannons, surrounded the crowd and dispersed it unceremoniously around the streets, preventing Chamisa from addressing his supporters.
« They want people to do what? » Said a neighborhood saleswoman, Sabina Muchemwa. « The situation is really tough and the government is doing nothing to ease it. Why are they preventing Chamisa from speaking? «
Eight people, including ordinary onlookers, were arrested, including a mother carrying a ten-month-old baby on her back, according to the Zimbabwe Lawyers Association for Human Rights (ZLHR).
« The baby is currently being held at the Harare Central Police Station, with his mother being arbitrarily arrested, » they said.
Speaking in turn to some members of his party, Nelson Chamisa predicted that the regime would soon fall.
« If the police behave the way you saw, it means the end is near, maybe even before Christmas, » said the leader. « Brutality and repression are not sustainable, they can not last forever ».
« The end is near »
« When you see a regime (…) that is afraid of its own people, you know that the end is near, » he insisted.
In power since the end of 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa inherited from his predecessor Robert Mugabe, who ruled unchallenged for thirty-seven years, a country financially drained.
The situation of its 15 million people has worsened recently with the return of hyperinflation, power cuts, shortages of products such as flour, fuel and medicines, and drought.
The opposition and civil society accuse him of systematically repressing their demonstrations against the continuous deterioration of their living conditions.
« In terms of dictatorship, Mugabe now looks like a choir boy, » said Wednesday Chamisa.
Since the riots caused by rising fuel prices in January, NGOs have documented some 50 cases of kidnapping or torture and hundreds of arrests of opponents, trade unionists or members of civil society.
On Wednesday, a court dropped charges against close opposition minister Ewan Mawarire and trade unionist Peter Mutasa, who called for protests against fuel prices in January.
« It was a travesty of justice. They knew that their file was empty, « said AFP Mr. Mawarire. « This decision of dismissal today is not the product of their beneficence, but of our tenacity and those of our lawyers ».