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  • Opposition denies role in police bombings
    IRIN News
    March 15, 2007

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    HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has distanced itself from the bombing of a police camp in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday, while some rights activists are suggesting that unrest is mounting.

    Three female police officers were injured and their property burnt at the Marimba police camp, which consists of a police station and residential quarters, in the populous suburb of Mufakose, an MDC stronghold. State television and the official daily newspaper, The Herald, reported that assailants cut the boundary fence before throwing teargas canisters and petrol bombs into the lodgings.

    Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena told IRIN that the attack was the work of "militant youth" of the MDC's "democratic resistance committees".

    Spokesmen for both factions of the MDC scoffed at the claims. "We wonder where they got that kind of information from. There is no evidence at all that the perpetrators of the violence were members of the opposition. Where would ordinary people get teargas from, unless they are suggesting that some members of the police and army are MDC?" said Job Sikhala, a member of parliament, and defence and security secretary of one MDC faction.

    "MDC members will not perpetrate such acts of violence," said Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the other faction.

    Jacob Mafume, a coordinator at Crisis in Zimbabwe, a coalition of more than 300 civil society organisations, said the attack on the police station meant that people's patience with the government was running out.

    "Violence translates into the gross abuse of human rights, and this is what we have been seeing in the past weeks as the police moved in to thwart gatherings by legitimate citizens of this country, arresting and torturing them. They are becoming disillusioned with the police force, which is supposed to protect them, and the swelling tide of anger is evident," Mafume told IRIN.

    He urged the police to desist from using excessive force against the people, saying this would only lead to more violence.

    In the past few weeks Zimbabwe has witnessed running battles between the police and MDC supporters. In the third day of unrest on Tuesday, another bombing of a police station was reported in Gweru, 200km north of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

    Besides the two bombings, The Herald reported that four other suspected opposition supporters were arrested in Masvingo, in the southeast, the country's oldest town, for allegedly beating up street vendors and a soldier.

    Earlier in the week, an opposition leader was shot dead by the police and scores of MDC leaders and supporters arrested, drawing worldwide condemnation. On Thursday, the parliament of the regional powerhouse, South Africa, passed a motion expressing concern over the situation in Zimbabwe.

    Tension has been mounting in Zimbabwe for the past two months: NGOs, church groups, labour and students have all staged sporadic demonstrations around the country as Zimbabweans battled with annual inflation now running at more than 1,700 percent, compounded by shortages of foreign currency, food, fuel, electricity and medicines.

    Police officers have been living in fear since the Marimba attack. An officer attached to the intelligence gathering internal security department at Marimba police station, who did not wish to be named, told IRIN that the authorities were working out the logistics to ensure the security of members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

    "There is a lot of anxiety, as we don't know who will be the next target. People are growing increasingly angry with the police and army, as they say we are being used by the government to beat them up, yet we will simply be carrying out orders," said the officer.

    He said police patrols had been advised not to move around alone and to avoid bars in areas known to be volatile. There has been speculation in the media that a state of emergency might be imposed.

    However, Bvudzijena dismissed the reports. "The situation in the country is calm and does not warrant the imposition of emergency. People are going about their daily business."

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