HARARE - Police in Zimbabwe used tear gas and water cannons Wednesday to break up an opposition rally of about 200 people in the capital, Harare. Supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change said those who resisted the tear gas were assaulted.
Bystanders such as 24-year-old soft drink vendor Runyararo Mazinyira - with her two-year-old child on the back - were reportedly caught up in the attack.
"Before we even managed to leave on their [police] orders, they started beating us with baton sticks," she said. "They even assaulted my child. My hand is heavy and numb because of the assaults. They even beat me on the face. There is nothing I can do to them [police] but I feel very pained by what they did to me. There is no crime I committed. I was just selling my wares."
However, police say the gathering and address by MDC party leader Nelson Chamisa had not been sanctioned.
But MDC vice president Tendai Biti said that should not matter.
"We don't accept this. We are not a terrorist organization. We are not a facist organization," Biti said. "Since 2017, we have seen the closure of political space because of [President] Emmerson Mnangagwa. We say no to facism. We say no to madness."
Biti said he hoped leaders of the Southern African Development Community, such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, are aware of what is happening in Zimbabwe.
MDC spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda said members of the party would continue to challenge the legitimacy of Mnangagwa, whom they accuse of stealing last year's elections from Chamisa.
The police actions on Wednesday come as Mnangagwa's government appeals to the United States and Europe to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe's leadership starting in 2002 for political repression and election rigging. Mnangagwa, who came to power in 2017, says he is different from his predecessor and former ally, the late Robert Mugabe, whose regime was continuously accused of cracking down on critics.