Police have fired tear gas at a crowd of opposition supporters amid an outbreak of violence in Harare. Clashes have broken out all over the city.
Zimbabwean police on Friday used tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest against President Robert Mugabe that was authorized by court order, triggering violent clashes throughout the capital, Harare.
Opposition supporters who wanted to march to the offices of the electoral commission to deliver a petition calling for electoral reforms ahead of 2018 elections were told to leave by police. When some refused to comply, the officers violently broke up the crowd, which included opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru. Tsvangirai and Mujuru fled the rally in cars.
The dispersed protesters then fought running battles with police in the streets of Harare, burning tires, throwing rocks and burning a popular market to the ground. Several people were reported injured in what was some of the worst unrest in the country since food riots in 1998.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba accused protesters of looting shops, saying a number of arrests had been made.
Zimbabwe has seen months of protests against alleged human rights abuses, a weakening economy and high unemployment under the 92-year-old Mugabe, who has held power since 1980 when the south African country obtained its independence from Britain.
Government critics want international observers, including the United Nations, to monitor the poll in 2018. They are also calling on Mugabe to dismiss corrupt ministers, scrap plans to introduce local bank notes and end cash shortages.
Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday accused opposition leaders of being “foreign agents” who were trying to bring about international intervention in Zimbabwe’s affairs.