Tensions were running high in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare on Friday on the eve of a rally by the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to mark 12 years since its founding as an opposition party in1999.
Party officials said this week that they were concerned that youth militants of President Robert Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party would try to disrupt the rally. There have been a number of attacks this week around Harare attributed to ZANU-PF youth.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena accused the MDC of hiring “thugs” to beef up its security for the event at Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, a Harare suburb.
Tsvangirai MDC Organizing Secretary Nelson Chamisa said police spokesperson Bvudzijena’s remarks were ill-informed.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya urged police to deal with political violence in a professional manner.
Youth Minister and ZANU-PF Secretary for Youth Saviour Kasukuwere dismissed the MDC charges that young party members will try to break up the rally.
Analysts said relations between the Zimbabwean police and the public have deteriorated with many victims of political violence turning to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee set up to track compliance by the co-governing political parties with the 2008 Global Political Agreement, by-passing the national police force.
JOMIC has called on the police to check political violence which has mounted recently despite two calls by President Mugabe for tolerance and nonviolence.
JOMIC Co-Chairman Oppah Muchinguri of ZANU-PF told the state-controlled, ZANU-PF-leaning Herald newspaper that his panel will work hard to quell violence in Harare.
ZANU-PF supporters are accused of assaulting people outside Parliament on Tuesday when it reopened, even as Mr. Mugabe delivered a message of peace inside, and of attacks in Highfield and Harare satellite town Chitungwiza on Wednesday.