MDC-T headquarters besieged by armed police

The crackdown against the MDC-T intensified on Tuesday after a group of armed police officers besieged their headquarters, barricading the main road and firing tear gas.

It’s understood that the afternoon’s chaos began when police tried to arrest local vendors who retaliated, resulting in skirmishes with officers. The police officers apparently retreated to get reinforcements, but when they returned the vendors had scattered.

According to the MDC-T, a group of more than 30 fully armed police officers immediately stormed Harvest House, saying they were looking for the vendors. The officers blocked the main road outside the headquarters and then started firing tear gas, both inside and outside the building, causing MDC-T staff and passers-by to flee.

Eyewitnesses meanwhile explained that the chaos spread across the city, with police officers firing tear gas at members of the public. On First Street, people were seen scurrying for cover as gas canisters were launched at passers-by. On the social networking website Twitter some Zimbabweans shared images of the police stationed on the corner of First Street and Union Avenue “waiting to pounce.” It was also reported that many businesses were forced to close early.

One Twitter user quoted a policeman who said a colleague was “beaten by people hiding at Harvest, so they went to ‘fish the guys out.”

The MDC-T’s deputy spokesperson, Tabitha Khumalo, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the police officers eventually left the area without making any arrests. An angry Khumalo said: “The issues of the vendors was just a scapegoat so they could track down our members who were at the Hatcliffe rally on Sunday.”

A number of people were injured when that rally was disrupted by over 100 ZANU PF youths, resulting in clashes between members of the two parties. Police had to fire teargas and rubber bullets during the clashes, but focused their attack almost entirely on MDC-T members.

“We think that the police believe that we are hiding people who were part of that incident, which is why they stormed our headquarters today (Tuesday),” Khumalo said.

She added: “We are disgusted by the behaviour of the police who are still carrying forward ZANU PF’s fight from Sunday.” – SW Radio Africa

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