THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has reportedly suspended 16 top police officers, accusing them of allowing MDC Alliance activists to freely demonstrate in Harare’s central business district on Wednesday before soldiers moved in and fired indiscriminately, killing six people on the spot and injuring 14 others.
This came amid reports of fierce fights between police and the Zimbabwe National Army over last week’s deadly clashes and weekend raids at opposition leaders’ homes by armed soldiers.
MDC Alliance leaders yesterday claimed hundreds of their supporters and top officials in various parts of the country had gone into hiding from an army-led crackdown days after ruling Zanu PF party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared presidential winner of last week’s controversial election.
“There are a lot of people hiding as soldiers are going door-to-door. There are people disappearing. We don’t know how many — maybe 30, maybe 50. They are clearly trying to scatter the leadership, to stop us organising,” MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said.
“The nature of an abduction means we can’t tell who has gone, but we have lots of people missing. We have helped five people who narrowly escaped abduction to flee Zimbabwe.
Others, we are hiding in safe houses. There is intimidation and atrocious treatment of people whom they catch.”
Police sources claimed that fierce fights had erupted between the ZRP and the army over which security department was responsible for last Wednesday’s fatalities and the weekend harassment of opposition activists.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could neither confirm nor deny the bad blood between the security arms.
Asked to comment on the alleged suspension of pro-Chamisa police officers, Charamba said: “As police, we follow the law. If any of our officers breached the Police Act, they are supposed to face the law, but at the moment, I am not confirming or denying that. I need to check with those responsible so that I could give you a true response.”
On Wednesday last week, the government unleashed soldiers to disperse thousands of MDC Alliance demonstrators who stormed the capital city, accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of rigging the just-ended harmonised election in favour of Zanu PF.
Six people were killed when the military opened fire on the crowded streets, in a move which was widely condemned by the international community as gross abuse of human rights.
NewsDay understands that 16 riot police officers from Mbare Police Station were targeted for disciplinary action after they allegedly failed to disperse the protesters.
“The Commissioner-General (Godwin Matanga) was not happy with the way the officers responded to the demonstration, particularly those who were captured on camera as gesturing to the protesters to jump onto a police vehicle. The top commanders feel like the officers were in support of the demonstrators, instead of dispersing them,” a police source said.
Shortly after the fatal protests, Zanu PF’s losing Harare East parliamentary candidate and former Finance deputy minister Terence Mukupe, took to social media platforms, labelling the police officers as MDC supporters.
“How do we send the ZRP Support Unit that voted against the President to contain the stupid demo by (Tendai) Biti and his MDC buffoons? It’s time for the army to move in and restore order!” Mukupe said in a Facebook rant last Wednesday.