The violent disruption of a Harare peace prayer meeting by police on Saturday has been described by political analysts as a slap in the face of Sadc’s mediation efforts.
On Saturday armed police tear-gassed people gathered for a peace prayer inside a church building in Glen Norah suburb.
There was pandemonium at the Church of the Nazarene as people scrambled for exit points.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said: “It is a slap in the face for Sadc as it comes after a rebuke that all forms of violence and arbitrary arrests have to be stopped. The police have not heeded that call, an indication that they are taking instructions from a cabal within Zanu PF.”
He said the disruption of the church service exposed there was a cabal in Zanu PF that was running the security apparatus of the State.
Mangongera said the police actions put a damper on efforts to placate Jacob Zuma, the Sadc-appointed facilitator who was recently publicly condemned by senior Zanu PF officials and the state-controlled media for belittling President Robert Mugabe at a recent Sadc Troika summit in Livingstone, Zambia.
“This puts a damper on everything and is a shameful indictment of Zanu PF,” he said.
Another analyst, Eldred Masunungure, said there was urgent need for security sector reform adding that in this particular case, the police overreacted.
“I don’t know whether there was provocation or not, but whatever the circumstances, the reaction was unnecessary,” Masunungure said.
“Security sector reform needs to be put in motion and expedited. I never expected the police to respond positively to the call by Sadc as security sector reform is not an event. The police action has become a culture and cultural change is time-consuming.”
The Sadc Troika that met recently rebuked all forms of violence in the country.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week accused Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri of being partisan.
Irene Petras, director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said :
“It seems as if the police don’t only have a problem with freedom of assembly and expression but with freedom of worship too. There was really no reason for them to fire teargas at people who had gathered to pray.”
She said the action by the police had no place in a democratic and peace-loving society.
MDC-T provincial youth spokesperson Maxwell Katsande, who was at the weekend prayer meeting, said several people were injured.
“Police came in at the church, hurled teargas and ordered people out of the building,” he said.
Shakespeare Mukoyi, the MDC-T Harare Province vice-chairman, was arrested and detained at Glen Norah Police Station charged with attacking a police officer during the skirmishes.