Police break up MDC rally, detain MP, supporters


At least 17 supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were detained in Harare when police broke up an unsanctioned rally, a spokesperson for the party said Monday.

The rally was due to be held in the Harare South area on Sunday but police only notified the MP for the district Eric Murai that it could not go ahead late on Saturday, said Obert Gutu.

Gutu said in a telephone interview: "It's very difficult for us to communicate with our supporters to tell them that the rally's off, because as you know we have no access to the public media.

"So people who had gathered on Sunday morning, they were then set upon by the police using tear gas canisters, dispersing them [and] beating us."

Gutu said Murai was among those arrested, as were at least three senior citizens.

There are unconfirmed reports that MDC supporters fought back, throwing stones and bricks at police.

Under Zimbabwean law, groups have to notify the police of any public gatherings they intend to hold. 

During Zimbabwe's crisis years between 2000 and 2008, many rallies planned by the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC were banned although rallies by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party were almost always allowed to go ahead unhindered.

In more recent years, as Tsvangirai's political star has waned, his rallies have met with less resistance from the authorities.

Regarding the Sunday rally, police said they were still investigating a case of political violence at the venue and "wanted the situation to cool down a bit", Gutu said.

The state ZBC broadcaster, quoting police spokesperson Charity Charamba, said lawmaker Murai and 16 other MDC supporters were arrested "for holding an unlawful public gathering to promote public violence and breach of peace".

But Gutu said they were actually charged on Monday with disorderly conduct.


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