Zimbabwean police Saturday used dogs and tear gas to break up the country’s main opposition party rally as President Emmerson Mnangagwa delivered an address a few kilometers away unhindered.
Police descended on thousands of unsuspecting members of the Zimbabwe Citizens’ Coalition for Change waiting for their leader, Nelson Chamisa, to address them in Gokwe, about 300km southwest of Harare for VOA News. The police used dogs and tear gas to disperse the rally for allegedly violating COVID-19 regulations barring more than 100 people from gathering.
Fadzayi Mahere, spokeswoman of Citizens’ Coalition for Change, was among them and blames President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“We saw a regrettable selective application of the law by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. So, the police, on Mr. Mnangagwa’s instructions, made an about turn and purported to prohibit our rally, contrary to law and constitution. No explanation was given why our rally was banned, whereas Mr. Mnangagwa’s rallies are allowed to proceed. A further concern is the abuse of COVID regulations as a weapon to shrink the democratic space. As the Citizens’ Coalition for Change we continue to demand a level playing field.”
Zimbabwe’s home affairs minister, Kazembe Kazembe, who is in charge of police, refused to comment Sunday.
Harare-based political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya says Mnangagwa’s government seems to be taking the template from its predecessor. The late Robert Mugabe’s administration used to crush opposition gatherings.
“President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, which has been calling for lifting of sanctions, saying all is now well, is now crushing the opposition’s gatherings, said Ngwenya. “It shows that ZANU-PF’s ugly way of doing things from the days of Mugabe of suppressing the opposition is still there. So that it means nothing will change – in terms of sanctions – unless the government changes the way it treats the opposition. This is not the new dispensation which people were looking forward to. We are still in Mugabe’s days.”
The opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change said that its rally scheduled for Sunday in Kwekwe, about 300 kilometers south of Harare, would go ahead. Zimbabwe holds by-elections on March 26 to fill some seats in Parliament that have become vacant since the last election, in 2018.