Police crackdown sparks riots

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A police clampdown on illegal vendors in the Harare central business district (CBD) yesterday turned nasty after a group of traders, miffed by the action, assaulted the police resulting in running battles.

Police threw teargas canisters in the ensuing melee. The clashes engulfed the CBD yesterday, turning the city into a mini war zone.

Barricades jammed Angwa Street near the MDC-T headquarters, Harvest House as rock-throwing vendors resisted police advances.

The skirmishes spread towards OK supermarket in First Street where management temporarily closed the shop in apparent fear of looting.

National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said the confusion arose when a group of vendors assaulted a police officer who was “trying to enforce the law”.

He said the police suspected the violence was being perpetrated by political activists masquerading as vendors.

“You recall that a police officer was assaulted at Harvest House by a group of vendors selling pirated copies of CDs and on Monday we had a similar incident where one of our officers was assaulted by vendors in First Street, and today some vendors also attacked a police officer near Harvest House,” Mandipaka said.

“What we have discovered of late is that there are political activists masquerading as vendors and some vendors who also masquerade as political activists each time police officers are trying to enforce the law. The problem is those vendors around Harvest House want to believe they are immune to the law. However, when they attack the police, they will receive an equal repulsion.”