Anti-riot police yesterday moved to crush the 16-day Occupy Africa Unity Square protest by the Zimbabwe Activists Alliance, which has so far seen 15 activists, including missing anti-President Robert Mugabe campaigner Itai Dzamara’s brother Patson, being arrested.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Riot police barred people from passing through the park in Harare’s central business district amid reports that a number of activists camped there for over a week were mistreated by the cops.
Early morning shoppers and those on their way to work were taken by surprise when riot police descended on them, with a few unfortunate ones being forced to “swim” in the dirty water in one of the fountains.
“I was on my way to work and as I entered the park, two riot policemen stopped me and ordered me out. When I questioned this they forced me into the dirty water,” said a shop assistant who declined to be named.
The young man’s clothes were still damp and he had taken off his shoes to dry them in the sun.
Other witnesses said the police were very aggressive in their conduct and that some of the victims had been briefly detained in another disused dry water fountain before being released.
“They are infringing on our rights as citizens. They have no right to bar anyone from protesting,” fumed a vendor whose friend was also caught up in the melee.
However, when The Standard crew arrived at the Africa Unity Square, the “curfew” had ended and a few people were milling within the park but police still maintained a heavy presence.
“Their presence is intimidating. Normally we come here to study and share ideas but we cannot do that any more,” said a group of female students.
There was no sign of protesters.
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, 10 suspected activists who were arrested on Thursday on a charge of defeating or obstracting the course of justice were yesterday remanded out of custody on a $500 bail.
The 10, who included Alpha Media Holdings journalist Paidamoyo Muzulu, appeared before magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti who saw no compelling reason to deny them bail. They will be back in court on June 22.
It is being alleged that when Patson and the other four were being arrested, the 10 were part of the activists who tried to stop the police from effecting the arrest.
Dzamara and others who are on a $1 000 bail are being charged with robbery and obstructing the course of justice.
The state alleges that the five men robbed two women who were passing through Africa Unity Square around 1am on Thursday.
Itai used to stage his protests against Mugabe’s rule at the same venue before he was abducted early last year and has not been seen ever since.