HARARE – Zimbabwean police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in Gokwe on Saturday.
Supporters of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) had gathered for a rally initially authorized by police before a last minute U-turn, citing limited numbers due to a rival rally by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at around 140 km from Kwekwe.
Chamisa and Mnangagwa are rallying their supporters for the by-elections scheduled for March.
The High Court had previously refused to grant restraining orders to the police, with Judge Sylvia Chirau saying there was no evidence they intended to block the rally.
“The only evidence before me is that the police authorized the gathering and it has not been withdrawn or rescinded. This approval stands,” she ruled.
The police had informed the court that they had authorized the meeting and that she would not disturb them.
Apparently, the lawyers representing the CCC were unarmed with the restraining order issued by the Gokwe District Police Commander, T. Chikono, who requested the postponement of the rally.
“Police will not be able to provide adequate protection to those attending the post-election campaign launch as officers have been deployed to cover the Star rally in Kwekwe District,” the order dated 25 February reads.
“I have issued a restraining order allowing you to postpone the start of your post-election campaign to another date.”
Chamisa’s convoy drove through central Gokwe, accompanied by cheering supporters.
The acting Deputy President of CCC party, Tendai Biti, said the party had no choice but to disperse its supporters.
“The rally is no longer possible because you have seen that these guys (policemen) are bloodthirsty and can do anything to draw blood,” Biti said.
“As leaders, we must order our supporters to return home, but yellow fever will not be stopped by tear gas or riot police.”