Zimbabwe police crack down on MDC supporters

File: Police in Zimbabwe have cracked down on opposition Movement for Democratic Change supporters.

File: Police crisscrossed the central business district on Thursday, using loudhailers to order people to stop whatever they were doing and go home.

Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE - Zimbabwean police on Wednesday used batons, tear gas and water cannons to disperse supporters of the main opposition party who had gathered outside its building in the capital to listen to a speech by their leader.

The latest police action comes as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa of adopting the heavy-handed tactics of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe who died on 5 September.

On Sunday, Mnangagwa defended his record in an opinion piece carried by CNBC Africa, saying his administration was opening up political and media space.

READ: Zimbabwe police give unions green light for public sector protest

But police have this year banned several MDC gatherings, saying they feared the events would turn violent.

Hundreds of police blocked roads leading to MDC headquarters in Harare but supporters continued to gather, singing and chanting before the arrival of party leader Nelson Chamisa, who was set to address them.

A few minutes after Chamisa entered the party building, police charged the crowd with batons and fired tear gas, causing a stampede, according to Reuters witnesses.

READ: Zim police ban striking doctor from being treated in SA

Police officers declined to comment.

MDC officials said the skirmishes once again showed that the opposition party was a victim of government brutality.

"The MDC strongly condemns that violent attack by the police on the citizens who had peacefully gathered outside our (headquarters). This kind of barbaric brutality is totally unacceptable in Zimbabwe," MDC national spokesman Daniel Molokelo said in a statement.