Menacing police officers arrived in a number of trucks and threatened to shoot people in Binga as well, where masses had gathered to listen to Tsvangirai.
The police officers told the expectant crowd and MDC-T officials that they had not come to negotiate and were neither obligated to follow court orders, MDC-T officials said.
Police are reported to have said the court order was fake and that they only took instructions from their boss. A distressed Tabitha Khumalo, the MDC-T deputy spokesperson, described the mood as tense in Lupane, saying people feared that police could unleash violence and arrest their supporters.
“They have not arrested anyone so far, but they have besieged the houses of party leaders in Matabeleland North,” she said. Khumalo said the houses were being searched and she was not sure what steps the police would take from then.
The party’s organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa described police actions as unbelievable, saying the police should not be allowed to trample on people’s freedoms.
“Since independence we have moved backwards,” he said. “This is utter disrespect of the people and the prime minister,” he said from Binga.
Police claimed they did not have the manpower to supervise the rally and thus could not allow it to go ahead.
Since the inclusive government was formed two years ago, the MDC-T has not been allowed to hold rallies in Lupane, as police have cracked down on each of these.
The latest police action follows the disruption of another MDC-T rally in Nkayi last weekend after plain clothes policemen ordered the cancellation of the meeting.
Despite Tsvangirai’s protestations that he had the same executive powers as President Robert Mugabe and that law enforcement agents were subservient to him, the police would have none of it.
Matabeleland North police spokesperson, Edmore Veterai’s mobile phone was off and could not be contacted for comment.
POLICE DEFY MAGISTRATE’S ORDER
Lupane and Binga magistrates Takudzwa Gwazemba and Stephen Ndlovu respectively had on Thursday and Friday okayed the MDC-T to go ahead with their rallies, describing actions by the police as “unlawful”.
In her ruling, Gwazemba ordered the Lupane rally scheduled to take place at St Paul’s to go ahead without any interference from the police.