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Police ready to shoot to quell election violence in Zimbabwe

Police ready to shoot to quell election violence in Zimbabwe

Police in Zimbabwe are ready to use force to quell any violence during national elections next month and any unrest after the poll, the official media reported Wednesday.
President Robert Mugabe is accused of holding onto power by using intimidation and rigging to ensure previous election victories, and the latest comments by police were likely to add to concerns the March 29 vote will be no different despite promises of reform.
Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri said police officers will not hesitate to use "full force" to stop politically motivated violence, the state Herald newspaper said.
"Police will never treat perpetrators of political violence with kid gloves. Please be warned," the paper quoted him as saying.
"There has been talk from some opposition circles and civil organizations of street protests or Kenya-style riots if the ballot does not go in favor of one's political party... It is time for political parties to own up if they lose," he said.
Earlier this month, police banned the carrying of knives, spears, catapults and other traditional weapons ahead of the March 29 presidential, parliamentary and local council polls.
Mugabe faces a challenge from a former finance minister, Simba Makoni, as well as the head of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai.
In an open letter, U.S. Ambassador James McGee has said there were "ominous signs" that the elections would not be free or fair. He cited inadequate preparation, voter confusion and evidence of registration irregularities. "The violence of the past year will inevitably affect the campaign and the election," he added.
In March last year, police violently broke up an opposition prayer meeting and jailed and assaulted opposition leaders, including Tsvangirai. Mugabe later told regional presidents at a southern African summit police were allowed to "bash" law breakers.
Police had declared the prayer meeting and opposition march an illegal political gathering and banned it under security laws. New legislation rushed through parliament at the end of last year has relaxed the security laws, but so far there have been few signs of a more tolerant government approach to opposition demonstrations.
In eight years of political and economic turmoil since the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms began in 2000, much of the violence that claimed at least 200 lives has been blamed on ruling party militants, armed veterans of the independence war, secret police agents and troops and police themselves.


Updated : 2020-12-01 14:25 GMT+08:00