HARARE - Zimbabwean police fired shots into the air and used water cannon and tear gas in downtown Harare to disperse an anti-government protest Wednesday. Protesters looted a shop belonging to the country's vice president, while some people, including a journalist, were assaulted by police.
The siren of a water cannon vehicle was wailing as Zimbabwean police tried to break up a protest calling for the resignation of President Robert Mugabe.
The demonstrators accused the 92-year-old leader of ruining Zimbabwe’s economy and disregarding human rights. They clashed with police, and refused to disperse until officers fired gunshots into the air.
Harrison Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights condemned the government’s use of force.
“Instead of using force, it must do the right thing. The government must sort out infrastructure, look at the conditions of the roads, look at the conditions of the rail. When did we last have the government building dams? There is total collapse of infrastructure. They must fix jobs. How do you have graduates playing football in the streets? Because they are totally unemployed. How do you have industrial sites resembling a funeral parlor? It is so pathetic. And they need to sort out corruption,” Nkomo said.
Western nations have long condemned Mugabe for allegedly rigging elections, suppressing the opposition and driving Zimbabwe’s economy into the ground with his policies.
Mugabe has held on to power for 36 years since the country won independence from Britain. Since last month, however, Zimbabwe has witnessed a rarely seen wave of protests against him.
The Wednesday demonstration was organized by youths of the opposition under the banner #myzimbabwe. Opposition parties are expected to hold protests Friday, demanding that Mugabe fix the moribund economy. The country’s unemployment rate is estimated to be above 85 percent, and for months, the government has failed to pay its workers on time.