MDC Star Rally stopped



Thuggery, tear gas, water canons as police defy court order
An eyewitness account BY ITAI DZAMARA
HARARE
We had waited since morning for High Court judge, Anna Maria Gowero, to make a ruling on the Movement

for Democratic Change (MDC)’s urgent application seeking an interdiction against ZRP plans to bar the opposition party from holding its Star Rally in Highfield on Sunday.
There were many journalists among the sizeable crowd in civilian clothes. A heavy presence of armed riot police carrying baton sticks and glass shields, and police trucks, was ominous.
Eventually, at about 3pm, there was movement from within the court chambers. MDC officials came out – secretary general Tendai Biti, spokesman Nelson Chamisa together with their legal representatives, Jessie Majome and Selby Hwacha, followed by ZRP’s Officer Commanding Harare South District, Washington Jangare, an official from the Attorney General’s office and some other cops.
We were informed that the judge would issue the verdict at 5pm and therefore had to wait, again. Suddenly three of the individuals in civil clothes and who had been mingling with us all day surrounded Hwacha’s car and a serious argument developed. They threatened to shoot if Hwacha didn’t stop and allow them to arrest Biti.
Negotiations between officers from Law and Order Section and the MDC team culminated in an arrangement that Biti and his lawyers would be taken to Harare Central, where, we later learnt, they battled to secure his release to attend the court at 5pm.
Soon after 5pm an entourage arrived with a heavy guard of police around Biti. Some 45 minutes later Jangano came out. With a sullen face, he stated: “They have won, and you can now go to have your rally.”
It was difficult to believe him. The general expectation among journalists had been that the MDC’s appeal would be thrown out, especially after Judge President Rita Makarau had arrived at the courts during the afternoon session and from the other side, Munhumutapa building, Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba had emerged to have a small chat with journalists.
Indeed, the MDC’s application had been granted, and so, Chamisa, bubbling excitement declared all was set for the Zimbabwe Grounds the following day ‘where a bumper crowd is expected’.
As I arrived at the grounds before midday on Sunday I was shocked to find utter chaos. Police were everywhere. The venue was closed and hordes of people were leaving dejectedly. Near the main gate, I found MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai arguing with police, holding the court order. Then he addressed his supporters, who were agitating for a head-on attack on the police.
Suddenly several trucks of police arrived with more than 200 armed details. Moments later, Highfield was on fire as Israeli anti-riot tankers arrived and unleashed teargas and water bombs on the crowds.
Movie-style, the 10 or so tankers chased unarmed, terrified people for hundreds of metres, spraying the choking liquid and teargas. Police chased and brutalized everyone who dared resist orders to leave.
Groups of riot police stormed into shops which were still open and even into a church close to Machipisa Shopping Centre to brutalise people.
Moments later, only police details were visible within the Zimbabwe Grounds and its vicinity. Many people – women, old men and youths – were lying injured on the tarmac or in ditches.
I remembered the look on Jangano when he had told us “they have won and you can now go to your rally”. I also recalled security minister Didymus Mutasa saying the state machinery was ready “to crush any silly plans to cause chaos”.

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