Twenty-five Movement for Democratic Change youths and a photo-journalist were arrested in Harare on Thursday after riot police and protesters fought running battles in the city center following an unsanctioned anti-Zanu PF protest.
The youths from the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC were demanding security sector reforms and an end to inter-party violence that they are blaming on Zanu PF and the police for allegedly failing to rein in Zanu PF youths and supporters.
The youths defied a riot police barricade and moved from Julius Nyerere Way to Nkwame Nkrumah where they clashed with another group of riot officers.
Freelance television journalist Shadreck Manyere was arrested while filming the protest and the MDC-T said 25 members of its youth assembly are behind bars following the protest.
Nyandoro Bridget , Harare province deputy information and publicity officer in the MDC-T youth assembly, told Studio 7 while she was hiding in a city shop that the MDC youths were irked by escalating violence in the country and could no longer sit and watch.
“We are demonstrating because of the economic hardships we are facing as a country and young people and the continued perpetration of violence against us as the MDC family from Zanu PF thugs,” said Nyandoro.
Nyandoro said that if the police did not reign in the Zanu PF youth wing, which they blame for the re-emergence of political violence, then the MDC would be left with no choice but to retaliate.
“We have succeeded our message has been driven home. I am sure the Harare province youth leadership of Zanu PF has heard our message that whatever violence that they perpetrate against us we can do that 10 times. We can't continue to be crybabies.”
Denford Ngadziore, Harare province secretary general, said the MDC does not trust what he said was the 'partisan ' police force hence the demand for security sector reforms.
“We have realised that the police and Zanu PF are one thing. We are now ready and geared up to defend ourselves,” said Ngadziore.
He said the MDC youths will not be deterred by Thursday's arrests.
“The Zimbabwe youths are the most affected ones. There is a high rate of unemployment and there is need for us to stand up and confront the regime.”
During the past weeks, there has been an upsurge in inter-party violence where the MDC youths have been clashing with Zanu PF youths in Harare South in particular but only MDC members have been arrested.
The arrested youths are being represented by attorneys from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. It is not clear when they will appear in court for initial remand.