AT least 17 MDC-T activists were last night still being held at Harare Central Police Station on charges of public violence, after skirmishes that rocked the capital at the weekend, which left scores injured.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The 17, who include Highfield East MP Erick Mutai, were arrested on Sunday for holding an “illegal” rally in Harare South’s highly-populated Hopley settlement.
According to the group’s lawyer, Advocate Tonderai Bhatasara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the activists were set to have their statements recorded by yesterday.
“We are waiting to have them give their warned-and-cautioned statements. They will all appear in court tomorrow (today),” he said.
Asked if the group had rejected an offer from police to plead guilty to a charge of public violence, Bhatasara said he was not aware of that.
“That information might have skipped me. I am not aware, but I am certain they will appear in court tomorrow and are currently being held at the law and order section at Harare Central Police Station,” he said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu accused police of trying to coax party activists into admitting to a “crime they never committed”.
“We have rejected the idea bandied about by police that our members admit to a charge of violence and pay an admission of guilty fine,” he said. “They did not commit any offence. How can they admit to a charge of disorderly conduct when they are victims of police brutality?”
Violence broke out between police and MDC-T activists after the main opposition party defied a police order not to go ahead with a rally in Harare South.
Initially, police said 17 activists were arrested as clashes reportedly left scores of activists and police officers nursing injuries.
Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba on Sunday said authorities had refused permission to stage the rally, given the tension caused by clashes a week ago.
Yesterday, police were not available for comment, with spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi’s mobile phone going unanswered for the better part of the day.
Harare police spokesperson Inspector Simon Chazovachii said he was attending a workshop and could not comment. But, the MDC-T insisted the gathering had been cleared.
It was the second time in as many weeks that violence had flared, as political temperatures continue to sour.
There was another violent encounter between MDC-T and Zanu PF youths at the weekend during a rally in Chinhoyi, where MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly called on his party youths “to hit back”.