Police in Victoria Falls yesterday cordoned off Chinotimba Stadium, effectively blocking MDC-T president Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s campaign rally in defiance of a High Court order allowing the rally to proceed uninterrupted.
Tsvangirai said this was a serious matter he would take to President Robert Mugabe as it had exposed the need for security sector reform.
“It’s a very serious issue and the behaviour of the police in the last three days has exposed why there is need for security sector realignment. The issue will be taken up with the President,” he said.
MDC-T national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa confirmed the incident, adding armed anti-riot police had literally locked themselves inside the stadium as early as 6am.
“The police acted as if they were the ones to be addressed by the party leadership. A rally for the people ended up being a rally for armed police officers. It’s not good to engage in violence. Violence is not our character, so why would we try to undermine the law enforcement agents?” queried Chamisa.
“By the time we got to the venue, the police had cordoned off the stadium and had locked themselves inside and it was difficult to talk to them. When I peeped through, I could see armed police in their numbers as if they were the ones to be addressed.”
But Officer Commanding Matabeleland North Police, Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai, said he was not aware of the incident although he was also in the resort town.
“I am attending a high-level meeting and you can call later and I will check for you,” Veterai said curtly.
Chamisa said the police grabbed foodstuffs meant to feed party supporters and chased away the MDC-T’s advance party.
The latest disruptions came hard on the heels of similar interruption at another MDC-T rally in Lupane on Saturday.
“When it comes to co-operation with MDC for peace, the police have a manpower problem, but when it comes to disrupting the people’s rallies, they have positive and boundless energy,” said Chamisa, adding Tsvangirai would soon confront President Mugabe and Sadc over the matter.
This is not the first time Tsvangirai has had problems with the police.
Early this year, the Premier failed to address rallies in Harare as police cited various excuses.
The MDC-T said the disruptions corroborated its call for security sector reform.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF and MDC-T youths yesterday fought running battles as the former ruling party youths reportedly disrupted a constituency meeting which was supposed to be addressed by Harare North MP Theresa Makone, Obert Gutu, Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto and other MDC-T leaders.
The skirmishes left several activists injured.
Hatcliffe police confirmed the skirmishes and that the injured were taken to a private hospital.
Gutu, MDC-T Harare provincial spokesperson,
said: “Running battles started at around 12noon as our party supporters had gathered for the rally. Armed Zanu PF youths came singing and chanting slogans to disrupt the meeting and six people were injured.
“I came across the youths who had barricaded the road leading to the venue of the rally, Hatcliffe shopping centre, and I also was afraid.”
When NewsDay visited Hatcliffe, the situation had calmed down, and police at the scene referred questions to Borrowdale Police Station where those arrested were said to be detained.
This is not the first time Makone has been barred from addressing a rally in her constituency.
Recently, she confirmed that even though she was Home Affairs co-minister, Zanu PF youths had effectively barred her from attending to any duties in the constituency.