Panafrican News Agency

LEAD: Zimbabwe opposition party calls off Harare protest march

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Friday called off its planned protest march in the capital, Harare.

This follows the High Court's dismissal of the party's urgent chamber application seeking to set aside the Zimbabwe Republic Police's (ZRP) prohibition ban against the protests.

MDC Vice President Tendai Biti said the party would, however, go ahead with other planned marches in Bulawayo (Monday), Gweru (Tuesday), Masvingo (Wednesday), and Mutare (Thursday) next week. 

The party filed urgent application to the High Court late on Thursday night to lift the ban slapped by the ZRP due to what the police alleged was uncovering a nefarious plot by the MDC to commit violence.

Justice Joseph Musakwa, who presided over the case on Friday, dismissed the application and ruled that the MDC should approach the Magistrate Court.

Police argued in court that they didn’t have enough manpower.

Early in the day, PANA witnessed heavily armed soldiers and police scattered across Harare in anticipation of protests.

There were a number of joint police and army checkpoints at major points, into Harare’s central business district (CBD), who were stopping the few motorists and commuters travelling towards the CBD, to conduct spot searches.

There was also a heavy police and army presence with the former cordoning off the MDC’s headquarters located along a street called Nelson Mandela Avenue.

Nelson Mandela Avenue is the same street where Africa Unity Square, a small park, is located a couple of hundred metres away from the building where the protest was supposed to have started.

PANA saw that the police and army were clad in riot gear carrying assault rifles, tear gas and baton sticks.

Apart from that, army and police convoys were patrolling the CBD streets. 

There was also a heavy police and army presence in a number of high density suburbs as well as convoy patrols.

The demonstrations were scheduled over the declining economic and political space.

ZRP national spokesperson Paul Nyathi said the ban was due to investigations indicating that the MDC was allegedly planning to commit violent acts under the guise of "peaceful protests", as previously reported by PANA.

-0- PANA TZ/MA 16Aug2019