By Anna Chibamu
TERRIFIED MDC staff was Monday forced to abandon its offices while others failed to report for work completely when dozens of anti-riot police besieged the main opposition’s national headquarters in central Harare and surrounding streets.
This follows the reported discovery of 248 regular police and Harare municipal police helmets at the basement of Robinson House, a privately-owned building close to Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, the MDC HQ.
Police spent the entire day camped outside the building but did not enter the MDC premises which they have often stormed in the past to seize computers, documents and arrest staff.
The Monday police siege at the party headquarters elicited protests from the MDC spokespersons who felt this was an act of intimidation by the State.
Nkululeko Sibanda, spokesperson for MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, said they suspected police planted the helmets to create grounds for a fresh crackdown of the opposition and its leaders.
“The police might have planted those helmets and we all know how dishonest this regime is,” Sibanda told NewZimbabwe.com.
“No one is buying their story. The picture they sent looks like a photo shop. You cannot even tell if they are helmets or not.
“It is a fake story by a failed government.”
MDC deputy spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka also said in a statement that the police move “was purely a choreographed attempt to clamp-down on the peaceful people’s movement by Zanu PF”.
“First was a story in the Zanu PF-controlled media in which the police said they had discovered anti-riot and municipal helmets at Robinson House in Harare which they are surprisingly trying to link to the party headquarters,” Tamborinyoka said.
“For the record, the MDC is a peaceful and non-violent political movement with a constitution that clearly stipulates the peaceful manner in which the party will always prosecute its democratic struggle.”
Tamborinyoka said the Monday siege was the second police attempt in the past few months to link the “people’s peaceful movement with a primitive, barbaric and Stone Age political script that involves stones, bricks and catapults”.
“The illegitimate regime is getting desperate and all these are frantic attempts to ban and proscribe legitimate political activity; just as they have done with peaceful demonstrations.
“For the record, we are a peaceful, law-abiding political party that poses no danger to human life,” he said.
Tamborinyoka added, “It is this regime that poses a threat to the safety of citizens and any attempt to implicate the MDC will not wash. Zimbabweans know that it is Zanu PF that is violent, and it is Zanu PF that has a blood-soaked history.
“Instead of clamping down on prices, a deteriorating economy, unemployment and power and fuel shortages, the ED regime has thought it prudent to clamp down on a legitimate political party going about its business.”
Reached for comment, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi Monday said police officers deployed in the city centre and other parts of Harare were only fulfilling their constitutional obligation to protect the public and property.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police has got a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order, to protect life, to secure property and precisely, that is what we are doing.
“They (police officers) are not interfering with business of anyone or threatening anyone and we expect the public to cooperate,” said Nyathi.
He added, on the discovery of the helmets, “We want to find out the link between the existence of these helmets under the basement and the criminals who were openly arrested whilst hiding.”
Tensions remain high in the country amid bottled anger among Zimbabweans who have seen their incomes eroded by spiralling prices of goods and services.
The State has moved to ban all MDC protest marches in the recent past amid fears this could degenerate into a fully-fledged rebellion against the under-fire Emmerson Mnangagwa led administration.
Apart from their presence outside MDC offices, truckloads of police officers were spotted in parts of the Harare CBD and in residential areas such as Epworth.