Zimbabwe protest leader denied bail amid rising dissent

Protestors flee teargas in Harare after Zimbabwe police fired tear gas, water cannons and gunshots to stop hundreds of youths protesting against police brutality. (AP Photo)
Protestors flee teargas in Harare after Zimbabwe police fired tear gas, water cannons and gunshots to stop hundreds of youths protesting against police brutality. (AP Photo)

Harare - A leader behind a spate of recent anti-government demonstrations in Zimbabwe was on Monday denied bail when he appeared in court on public violence charges ahead of fresh protests due this week.

Promise Mkwananzi, the 31-year-old leader of the #Tajamuka ("We are agitated") movement, was among 70 activists and bystanders arrested in the capital Harare last Friday, when people took to the streets demanding electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 vote.

Magistrate Tendai Mahwe said Mkhwananzi was "facing serious charges", before denying him bail.

Outside the court, police in riot gear and armed with water cannons arrested three activists voicing support for the detainees, an AFP reporter said.

Zimbabwe has witnessed violent protests over the past weeks, with demonstrators calling on long-serving President Robert Mugabe to step down.

Major demonstration 

Last week, riot police fired tear gas, beat several people and cordoned off the site of an opposition demonstration.

The protesters fought back by throwing stones at police while some set tyres ablaze and others pulled down the sign of a street named after Mugabe.

The rally - which was authorised by a court - was held to demand electoral reforms before 2018 when the 92-year-old Mugabe will seek re-election.

He won the last vote in 2013 in a poll the opposition says was rigged.

Vowing to keep pressure on Mugabe's regime until he resigns, the #Tajamuka movement has announced a major demonstration in Harare on August 31, while opposition parties plan to take to the streets on September 2.

Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, has overseen an economic collapse that has caused food and cash shortages, with the country battling to pay public servants.



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