Zimbabwe’s police threaten war against Tsvangirai supporters

2011-06-01 13:48

Harare – Zimbabwe’s police, loyal to President Robert Mugabe, today threatened “war” against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s supporters, whom they accuse of killing a policeman at the weekend, media reported.

“The time has come for the police to declare war against all unruly elements, be they criminals or misguided political malcontents,” police commissioner Charles Mfandaidze was quoted by the state-controlled daily Herald newspaper.

His statement came amid reports of widespread arrests in the crowded Harare township of Glenview as activists of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) went into hiding, fearing a brutal crackdown.

“Those who wish to live by the sword must be prepared to die by the sword,” Mfandaidze was reported saying.

He blamed “opposition political elements” and “pseudo-democratic malcontents attempting to make our country ungovernable” for the killing of police inspector Petros Mutedza, 42, on Sunday.

Police say Mutedza was leading a contingent of riot policemen to break up an “illegal meeting” by the MDC, when he was hit on the head with a steel chair.

The MDC denies that a meeting had taken place, and say police barged into a bar with their baton sticks and set off a melee with the drinkers.

The incident has heightened tension in the already troubled coalition government between Mugabe, in power for the last 31 years, and Tsvangirai, observers said.

The 87-year-old Mugabe insists on holding snap elections this year, while critics charge that he has not undertaken the political reform he signed up to under the power-sharing agreement almost three years ago.

Analysts believe Sunday’s incident to be the first death of a police officer in the 11 years since Mugabe began using the country’s security forces to try to crush the pro-democracy MDC.

In the last elections in 2008, lawyers say at least 200 MDC supporters were murdered and thousands tortured by soldiers, police and Mugabe’s militias.

Police have made no attempt to investigate the killings, but instead have harassed people seeking the prosecution of perpetrators.

Lawyer Charles Kwaramba said police were hunting down “anyone in Glenview on an MDC membership list”.

He said he had been refused access to about a dozen MDC activists who had been arrested on Monday.

“It’s really worrying,” Kwaramba said.

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