Mugabe launches violent crackdown on opposition

  • 27/08/2016
Robert Mugabe (Reuters)
Robert Mugabe (Reuters)

President Robert Mugabe has warned protesters there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe after anti-government demonstrations descended it to some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades.

Zimbabwean police on Friday fired tear gas and used water cannons on opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators at a protest against Mr Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF, before unrest swept across large parts of the capital Harare.

"They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country but we tell them that it is not going to happen here," said Mr Mugabe, referring to a series of uprisings that toppled leaders across the Arab world.

Mr Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring the protests.

"They are fighting because of Americans," said the 92-year-old.

Earlier, opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled a rally in their cars while protesters ran for cover as police broke up the core of the demonstration.

However, anti-Mugabe leaders warned that this would be the first of a series of protests.

Mr Mugabe's opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment.

Clashes spread through the streets of the capital Harare as riot police fought running battles with protesters who hurled rocks at officers, set tyres ablaze and burned a popular market to the ground, in some of the worst unrest since food riots in 1998.

Didymus Mutasa, a senior official from Mr Mujuru's party and convener of Friday's protest, vowed to repeat the demonstration a week from now and blamed police for the violence and disobeying a court order allowing the march to proceed.

Most businesses shut down early on Friday fearing looting by protesters. Mr Mujuru said 50 people were injured and hospitalised.