17 MDC-T supporters were yesterday arrested, while 10 others were reportedly left hospitalised after fearsome clashes with the police, when the law enforcement agents swooped on the opposition’s supporters at a rally in Harare South.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said a total of 17 MDC-T activists had been arrested, including Erick Murai, the Highfield East MP, for holding an illegal gathering.
“They applied to hold a meeting. The application was turned down because of clashes that took place last week. They proceeded to gather about 2 000 supporters. They are charged under section 37 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, which prohibits gatherings for the purpose of inciting violence and disturbing peace,” Charamba said.
She said investigations were underway.
However, sources said police officers had to open fire, as the situation got tense in an attempt to disperse the defiant MDC-T supporters, who had apparently, launched violent resistance to the authorities’ calls to abandon the rally.
Several of the arrested MDC-T supporters, who included Murai — who is also Harare province chairman — and Harare province secretary for gender Memory Ncube, were taken to Waterfalls Police Station, while several police trucks spent almost the whole day patrolling the densely populated Hopley.
Three senior citizens, Aquiline Sanganai (80), Stella Sadza (64) and Michael Matemai (67), were also arrested during the melee that lasted for more than an hour, from 10am until after 11am.
This was the second episode of violence in Harare South after MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters clashed last Sunday, when the latter wanted to disrupt a rally by the former.
The violent clashes reportedly left over 13 MDC-T supporters injured alongside an unconfirmed number of Zanu PF supporters.
Sources told NewsDay that police officers were also allegedly injured in the chaos that turned Kazembe Primary School open space into a war zone.
MDC-T Harare province youth vice-chairman, Stanley Manyenga said problems started when four truckloads of anti-riot police officers arrived at the venue of the rally and indiscriminately started assaulting party supporters with batons and throwing tear smoke at over 1 000 people, who had gathered.
“Over 20 have been arrested. We are still to establish the actual figure. Ten are being attended at a private hospital,” he said.
“The meeting was cleared. We had one last week that was disrupted by Zanu PF supporters and we agreed with the police that the rally would be held today. We were surprised when the police descended on us.
“They (police) arrived and started beating up people, tear gassing them and arrested Murai and Ncube. People started running away and the police continued to fire teargas until it ran out. They opened fire to disperse our supporters.”
Another source told NewsDay the MDC-T supporters resisted and started fighting back.
They threw stones, sticks, bricks and anything at the police.
“A small group of Zanu PF supporters also joined in. They partnered the police and also started fighting us using stones, catapults and various other weapons,” an MDC-T member said.
“The MDC-T supporters sought refuge in nearby houses, with the police in pursuit. Some residents helped the tear smoked supporters with water.”
When NewsDay arrived at the scene, police trucks were seen patrolling the suburb around the venue of the rally.
They were armed with tear smoke cannisters and batons, while residents went about their daily chores.