POLICE yesterday arrested 36 people for staging illegal demonstrations in various parts of the country, including 14 white Zimbabweans and a Belgian national who were nabbed in Victoria Falls.
The protests also coincided with the United States Ambassador Harry Thomas (Jr’s) unwarranted remarks inciting Zimbabweans to stage what he termed peaceful demonstrations.
Addressing journalists in Harare, police said they were not ruling out a third force in the illegal protests.
Questions have also been raised on why a foreigner was part of the demonstrations in Victoria Falls.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the arrests.
“In Masvingo central business district, some street children were found in possession of catapults after their arrest,” she said.
“In Matabeleland North, 15 whites and two locals carrying placards written, ‘Enough is Enough’ were also arrested for staging an unlawful demonstration. We can’t rule out a third force in (these) illegal protests. In Bulawayo, a man was arrested for possession of bombs.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the situation in the country remains calm although they noted a few incidents of road blockades and tyre burning.
In Harare, Snr Asst Comm Charamba said skirmishes were witnessed in Budiriro 5, Mufakose and Warren Park D.
She said the police swiftly moved in to remove the barricades erected by the hooligans.
“The police arrested 19 people, six from Budiriro and 13 from Mufakose. Among the hooligans is Linda Masarira of the Occupy Africa Unity Square who was throwing stones and burning stalls of innocent vendors,” she said.
“Investigations are ongoing to arrest perpetrators of violence.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba denied social media reports that Choppies Supermarkets in Chitungwiza and Bulawayo were burnt down.
She also dismissed reports that the National Railways of Zimbabwe rail wagons were burnt down in Bulawayo.
“Generally, there was free movement of people who decided to go to work as they went about their normal business,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
“Some banks and shops were also opened for business since police were deployed to ensure safety and security. This is contrary to social media messages purporting that no uniformed police were deployed.”
She said in Manicaland, a bus belonging to Inter-Africa Bus Company was attacked with stones by unknown assailants but there were no injuries and the driver did not stop.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said they had gathered information that there were some thugs who were planning to cause disturbances during the night and warned against such behaviour.
She said police would remain on high alert to thwart any illegal and criminal activities meant to disturb peace.
“We are urging members of the public to continue with the spirit of peacefulness and ignore all social media messages inciting people to engage in violent activities.
“In the same vein, the Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to thank all those peace loving Zimbabweans who defied the odds by not being brainwashed to join the hooligans who were disturbing peace and security. ZRP says no to violence,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
In Mufakose, our Harare Bureau witnessed hooligans blockading roads and burning tyres before the police intervened to restore order.
The police used teargas to disperse the rowdy protestors whose activities appeared to be co-ordinated from an unknown venue.
There was a complete shutdown of the location as police launched a door to door operation arresting some of the hooligans.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said anyone who was intimidated should report to any nearest police station or contact Harare Operations on (04) 748836 or the National Complaints Desk on (04) 703631.
Addressing fellow diplomats, politicians and ordinary people at his residence during a belated US 240th independence anniversary, Ambassador Thomas (Jr) said: “The United States supports freedom of expression in Zimbabwe and the peaceful manifestation of dissenting points of view.
“The United States and Zimbabwe were founded on dissent.
“Indeed many of us are here today because of the dissents of Dr Martin Luther King Junior, and so many others in the civil rights movement and Zimbabweans are here today because of the courage demonstrated by our freedom fighters and the families and friends who provided support.”
By Tuesday police had arrested 95 people in Harare following chaotic scenes caused by touts and rank marshals protesting against heavy traffic police presence on the roads on Monday.
Of the 95 arrested, 54 were arrested in Epworth and the other 41 in Ruwa.