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Harare Is 'Burning'

Protesters hitting back ...
Protesters hitting back ...

Angry protesters are burning tyres and throwing missiles at the police who have opened fire at the demonstrators. It is still unclear how many people have been injured so far and sirens of ambulances can be heard throughout Harare's central business district.

The running battles started early in the morning after police blocked demonstrators from gathering to begin their march to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to deliver a petition demanding key electoral reforms.

One of the lawyers representing the Zimbabwe People First party, Gift Nyandoro, said police have refused to receive a court order granted this afternoon by a High Court judge allowing the demonstration to proceed.

"They have told us to deliver the court order at their offices; we have done so but they continue to beat up people. We are going back to the courts to file another application," Nyandoro told Studio 7.

Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the Movement for Democratic Change party led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the Southern African Development Community should now be seized with the security situation in Zimbabwe.

"We are urging SADC leaders to table the (security) situation in Zimbabwe at the next SADC Summit in Mbabane, Swaziland next week. Zimbabwe is now a threat to regional peace and stability," said Gutu.

Meanwhile, fire brigade vehicles under heavy police guard are trying to put out some fire at some shops and flea-markets after protestors set them alight. Several shops have reportedly been looted by the protestors, according to police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba.

"I can't give you the exact figure (of those that have been arrested) so far because more violent demonstrators are still being arrested but we have arrested dozens," said Charamba. "However, I can confirm to you that we have arrested Promise Mkwananzi and Stan Zvorwadza for inciting violence but formal charges are yet to be placed on the two," added the police spokesperson.

Some people who had sought refuge in the Harare Magistrates Court were teargassed. Studio 7 witnessed the police firing teargas into the courtrooms and beating up the demonstrators. The chaos has also disturbed the ongoing Harare Agricultural Show.

Tsvangirai, former vice president Joice Mujuru who leads Zimbabwe People First, former finance minister Tendai Biti of the People's Democratic Party and other opposition leaders were among the leaders who were teargassed when they arrived at the Freedom Square to lead the protest march following the granting of the court order.

Home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo said all perpetrators of violence would be dealt with.

"We are going to ensure that anyone who commits acts of any form of politically motivated violence would face the full wrath of the law. We cannot sit and relax when we know that these demonstrators are foreign-sponsored. Regime change is going to fail," said Chombo in a telephone interview.

Convenor of Nera, Didymus Mutasa of Zimbabwe People First told reporters that they would organize another demonstration next week after today’s protest was crushed by the police. Meanwhile, spokesperson of the MDCT, Obert Gutu said the Southern African Development Community should be seized with the security situation in Zimbabwe when leaders of the regional bloc meet next week.

Some of the protestors said they would not leave the streets until President Robert Mugabe leaves office.