Zimbabwe police have fired teargas into Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party headquarters, blocked off the building and beat up nearby vendors.
Zimbabwe police on Tuesday fired tear gas into Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party headquarters, blocked off the building and beat up nearby street vendors in Harare, witnesses said.
The incident started when police tried to arrest street vendors near the Harvest House headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
“Police were trying to arrest vendors along First Street when they started to beat up people. That is when trouble started,” one witness said, adding, “The police fired tear gas everywhere, resulting in people scurrying for cover.”
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the attempts to arrest the street vendors were a ploy to raid Tsvangirai’s party offices.
“The police came at around 3pm and said they were looking for some people but it turned out that they wanted to harass the MDC,” Mwonzora told Agence France-Presse.
“They blocked Harvest House staff from leaving but also threw tear gas at them. This is a deliberate attempt by the police to harass and decimate the MDC,” he said.
Running battles between police and street vendors lasted nearly two hours while police were seen at the MDC offices armed with truncheons and AK-47 assault rifles.
Nearby shops closed early and by nightfall the streets were calm.
Police could not be reached for comment.
Years of intimidation
Tsvangirai has endured more than a decade of violence and intimidation against him and his supporters.
Tsvangirai claims to have been the target of four assassination attempts, including one in 1997 when he said assailants tried to throw him out of his office window.
In 2008 he pulled out of a presidential runoff after his victory in the first round vote ignited a nationwide wave of attacks that left more than 200 of his supporters dead.
To curb the violence he formed a power-sharing government with Robert Mugabe in 2009, under a deal that left the 87-year-old president in control of the security forces.
Political tensions are intensifying as Zimbabwe inches toward new elections, possibly next year.
Tsvangirai’s supporters, even his ministers, still suffer routine arrests and harassment. MDC rallies and meetings on the country’s new constitution have been disrupted by pro-Mugabe militants.—AFP