12 March 2007

Zimbabwe: Man Shot Dead as MDC Thugs Attack Police

Harare — ONE person was shot dead by police and three police officers severely injured during an attack by MDC thugs, while opposition faction leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara were arrested for inciting people to engage in violence.

Other opposition leaders picked up were the Tsvangirai faction secretary general Tendai Biti, organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, Grace Kwinje, Sekai Holland and Job Sikhala, the latter aligned to the Mutambara faction.

National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku was also arrested, ZBC News reported last night.

Police said the opposition leaders were observed going around Highfield inciting people to engage in violent activities.

Various opposition groups and civic organisations had planned to hold a political rally at Zimbabwe Grounds disguised as a prayer meeting.

New Ziana quoted Tsvangirai faction spokesman Mr Nelson Chamisa saying the prayer meeting was, in fact, a rally.

However, the rally flopped after people ignored the illegal gathering.

Organisers of the meeting failed to show up at the venue, which was cordoned off by police the whole day.

Police chief spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the death of the man — whose name had still not been released last night — and the arrest of the opposition leaders.

He said the three police officers were attacked by MDC thugs near Gazaland Shopping Centre in Highfield.

They were rushed to Harare Central Hospital where they were admitted. Their condition is still to be established.

"The three police officers, who were in a group of some 26 police officers, were attacked by an unruly mob of some 200 MDC thugs who were using children as shields," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

"In a tactical withdrawal by police officers as the children could have been injured, the thugs took advantage and overtook the police officers whom they heavily assaulted with stones, fists and booted feet."

He said the thugs managed to steal police equipment, which they then used to attack them with.

The rampaging group of thugs threw teargas, hurled stones with hands and catapults and other objects at the retreating officers but was later dispersed.

Another gang of MDC thugs also clashed with police officers patrolling at Gazaland.

The gang threw stones and teargas at the officers.

Police ordered them to disperse but they resisted and advanced menacingly at the officers, prompting the police to fire warning shots.

The warning shots did not deter the gang and police shot dead the suspected ringleader.

"The police shot one male adult who appeared to be the leader of the group in the chest. He died on the spot and the group dispersed," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

The orgy of violence spread to Waterfalls where a gang of MDC youths attacked mourners in a Zupco bus coming from burying a relative at Granville Cemetery.

The incident occurred near Zindoga Shopping Centre along Simon Mazorodze Road.

The youths got into the bus and stole cellphones from the mourners. A frightened pregnant woman among the mourners suffered a miscarriage.

When The Herald arrived at the scene some of the youths were trying to set the bus alight but failed.

As The Herald tried to take a picture of the rowdy youths in the act, they threw stones at news team's car, forcing it to make a U-turn and speed off.

But one stone hit the car, causing slight damage.

Most windows of the Zupco bus were shattered.

The youths also pounced on a military vehicle, a Mazda B1600, that was parked at Zindoga and tried to set it alight.

Their attempt was foiled by some children who doused the flames as soon as they noticed smoke coming from the vehicle.

Last night a commuter omnibus from Bulawayo was torched by six suspected MDC supporters at the Kuwadzana roundabout.

One of the culprits was shot in the arm by police and arrested on the spot.

The thugs looted goods in a trailer towed by the omnibus. traders who were returning from Botswana.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the organisers had tried to dupe the police into believing that the meeting was a prayer gathering but their activities indicated it was a political rally.

He said the situation at the Zimbabwe Grounds — the venue of the meeting — had been calm throughout the day.

"It is worth noting also that police will remain deployed on the ground to ensure the safety of individuals and their property.

"We appeal to those who see suspicious activities to immediately report such activities at their nearest station or national hotline 04-703631 which is manned 24 hours a day.

"We encourage everyone to go about their lawful activities as their safety and security is guaranteed," he said.

The situation at Machipisa was calm in the morning while businesses had closed.

Police manned roadblocks and conducted searches on vehicles and individuals looking for weapons from suspected hooligans.

Police officers were also visible in most parts of the suburb.

The opposition groups had vowed to go ahead with the rally despite a police ban on rallies, political meetings and demonstrations last month.

The ban was effected after MDC supporters unleashed violence, resulting in clashes with the police and destruction of property worth millions of dollars in the city centre and some suburbs.

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