Joseph Madzimure, Harare Bureau
Police used tear smoke to disperse an unannounced MDC-Alliance meeting at Dombotombo Clinic in Marondera yesterday after part of the crowd, who had arrived in kombis, refused to disperse and continued blocking patients from using the clinic.
After first engaging the party supporters and their leadership to move away from the venue, because there had been no prior notification as required, but without success, police were forced to use tear smoke. Police deny there were any gunshots and said none of the police at the venue possessed live ammunition or rubber bullets.
MDC-Alliance supporters immediately turned to social media to claim that police had used live ammunition to disperse the gathering, although there were no reports of injuries in these claims. In the video clip being passed around there is the sound of a shot or backfire, but no police officers are visible in the vicinity.
“Tear smoke canisters are usually fired from a short barrelled launcher that makes a loud pop that can be mistaken for a shot at a distance.
In a statement yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police dismisses allegations that live rounds of rubber bullets were used or fired when police officers in Marondera dispersed MDC supporters and activists this afternoon who had illegally gathered at Dombotombo Clinic and some leaders attempted to address the gathering without following the laid down notification procedures in terms of the law.
“Police only used tear smoke to disperse the gathering and politicians, with some who had been transported in kombis openly refusing to comply with lawful orders which had been given by the police.”
Asst Comm Nyathi urged members of the public and activists to comply with orders given by law enforcement agencies in order to ensure that law and order was properly maintained by police without hassles.
Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana told our Harare Bureau last night that no live bullets were fired in Marondera, contrary to claims by MDC-Alliance supporters.
“It’s the usual opposition histrionics and dramatics. (MDC-Alliance leader Nelson) Chamisa tried to have a rally in Dombotombo Clinic, disrupting the delivery of care to the sick people there,” he said.
“Police were called in. At this point there were kombis full of rowdy people who were very aggressive.
“They started surging towards the police in an aggressive way. Police deployed tear smoke to disperse the people. There was no use of firearms and none of the police details was armed with live ammunition,” he said.
Mr Mangwana added: “What we are dealing with here is attention-seeking theatrics we have come to expect from an opposition which is devoid of ideas and political programmes.”
MDC-Alliance MP for Marondera Central Caston Matewu pressed claims that live bullets were used against supporters and leader Mr Chamisa while he was conducting a tree planting programme.
Mr Chamisa’s spokesperson Dr Nkululeko Sibanda last night said the police had been briefed of the tree planting event.
“Let there be no doubt that this event was not a political gathering or a meeting but a tree planting event . . .”