Anti-riot police on Wednesday clashed with Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youths who staged a protest in central Harare demanding the immediate release of pro-democracy activist and former journalist Itai Dzamara who was allegedly abducted on Sunday.
More than 300 MDC youths marched on parliament from their party’s Harvest House headquarters demanding the release of Itai Dzamara, leader of the Occupy Africa Unity Square pressure group, who was allegedly abducted in Harare’s Glen View high density suburb by five unknown assailants that bundled him into a white Isuzu truck on Monday.
The protestors, who were carrying placards inscribed with various messages criticizing Dzamara’s abduction, told Zanu PF and opposition legislators making their way in the House for Wednesday’s deliberations that they were not happy with Dzamara’s kidnapping, adding that they would not leave the streets until the activist was released.
Baton-wielding police details pounced on the protesters when they were leaving parliament building and started assaulting the demonstrators who retaliated, pelting the officers with stones and other objects.
Studio 7 witnessed some of the police officers running away from the youths who were charging at them while some of the officers’ uniforms were blood-stained. In no time, the activists ran in different directions as the officers were also scurrying for their safety.
Dzamara last year petitioned President Robert Mugabe calling him to resign for allegedly failing to run the country democratically and pushing Zimbabwe’s economy into an abyss.
MDC-T youths clash with police in Harare over alleged abduction of one of Zimbabwe's public protest leaders. (Photo By Thomas Chiripasi)
MDC-T national youth chairperson, Happymore Chidziva, who led the protests, said President Mugabe and his two deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, were responsible for Dzamara’s abduction and called on them to release him.
Another protestor, James Chidhakwa, said Dzamara’s alleged kidnapping has left many Zimbabweans in shock and fear of the unknown. He called for a democratic change of government to ensure public security.
Chidziva told Studio 7 that they did not assault the police officers, claiming that the protesting MDC-T youths were the victims of police brutality.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed that officers were assaulted by the youths.
She said Zimbabweans should promote peace and not target police officers.
Ms. Charamba also called on the people to give police time to investigate Dzamara’s alleged abduction following a report that was filed by his wife on Tuesday.
Heavily armed police details barricaded the MDC-T headquarters barring people from passing through the opposition’s offices following the skirmishes outside parliament.
US EMBASSY CONCERNED
At the same time, the US Embassy in Harare released a statement expressing concern over Dzamara’s alleged abduction. The statement urged authorities to ensure that Dzamara’s rights as enshrined in the constitution are honored.
Some of the organizations that have also expressed concern about Dzamara’s fate include Amnesty International, the Zimbabwe Peace Project, the Human Rights NGO Forum and the European Union.
At the time of going to air, Dzamara’s lawyers were at Harare Central Police Station to see if police details had made any headway in locating the pro-democracy activist as word filtered through social media that he could have been found at the Harare Central Police Station.