Johannesburg - In a clear warning to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwean police have warned politicians who incite public violence as a means to raise election-related grievances that they would be dealt with “accordingly”.
Police Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba on Sunday said mass protests would not be tolerated.
This came amid fears that Tsvangirai’s supporters may stage Egypt-style protests after the MDC leader publicly refused to concede defeat to President Robert Mugabe at the weekend, alleging vote-rigging and irregularities.
“The streets are not there for unlawful gatherings and demonstration. Once again, police will not sit back and watch politicians breach the law. All offenders and perpetrators will be arrested,” Charamba said.
Hours before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared the Zanu-PF leader as the winner of the highly contested presidential elections, a subdued but defiant Tsvangirai had told a media briefing at his Harare home that he would not legitimise the “fraudulent” and “stolen” election. He said he would challenge the outcome in court.
Earlier, MDC treasurer Roy Bennett had reportedly called for a campaign of “passive resistance”, saying there was a need for “resistance against this theft, and the people of Zimbabwe need to speak out strongly”.
Without mentioning Tsvangirai or Bennett by names, Charamba said the police would launch a crackdown on anyone who incited public violence.
“Politicians should not blame the police when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Police will not hesitate to deal with anyone who incites the public to cause violence, and will act accordingly to restore order. We also urge all Zimbabweans not to be dragged into the option of mass protest,” she added.
She also appealed to “any politician with an election grievance” to approach the courts for redress.
Charamba’s warning came days after the police rounded up more than 140 MDC supporters across the country on suspicion of “stealing” election documents in order to help Tsvangirai rig the poll or discredit it.
The majority of them were arrested at the Beitbridge border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa on the eve of the election for allegedly having been bused into the country to cause post-election mayhem.
Charamba at the time denied that the police targeted MDC activists for political reasons, saying the officers had a duty to pick all “criminal offenders” irrespective of their party affiliation.
The police’s pre-emptive strike followed a similar warning to Tsvangirai by Mugabe’s right-hand man, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, on Friday. He had implored the MDC leader to approach the courts “if he has any grounds to justify what he’s saying”.
Tsvangirai later promised to do just that, saying he would give the courts, the AU and the Southern African Development Community proof of vote-rigging.
Speaking after a meeting of his party’s standing committee, he announced that the MDC would withdraw from all government and political processes with immediate effect. - The Star