As protest turns violent, Mugabe says there'll be no Arab Spring-style uprising
The protesters had been demanding electoral reform. Mugabe (in photo) has been president of Zimbabwe since 1987. Photograph: (Getty)
Zimbabwe police used riot-control measures to clamp down on supporters of electoral reforms in Harare on Friday, with the country's President Robert Mugabe saying that an Arab Spring-styled uprising would not happen in the country.
The march for electoral reforms turned violent when police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The protesters retaliated by pelting stones at policemen and setting tyres ablaze. Some of the protesters also pulled down a sign of road named after Mugabe.
Police broke the protest despite the court's order not to do so. Around 67 people have been arrested by Zimbabwean authorities.
Ninety two-year-old Mugabe has been under increasing pressure to bring electoral reforms in the 2018 polls. It is expected that Mugabe, who has ruled the South African nation since 1987, will seek reelection that year.
"They are burning tyres in the streets in order to get into power. They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country, but we tell them that is not going to happen here," the nonagenarian said.
"What politics is that when you burn tyres? We want peace in the country," he further said.
Eighteen opposition parties have joined hands to demand changes in the electoral process. Opposition parties include the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the Zimbabwe People First formed this year by former vice president Joice Mujuru.
The opposition leaders unanimously denounced the suppression of the march, and said it only emboldenend them to stage more such protests.
"If that was meant to cow us from demonstrating, I want to say we are going to do the same next week Friday," former Mugabe ally and ex-cabinet minister Didymus Mutasa said, adding that protests will continue "until the day we vote".
"We have had enough of ZANU-PF misrule," he said, referring to the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, the country's ruling party led by Mugabe.
Tsvangirai was equally scathing. "The people's anger is very deep. The people's desperation is very deep," he said.
Saying that the Mugabe regime was in its "sunset hour", he said the "brutal suppression" on citizens would backfire on them.
"The government is nearing a tipping point in its ability to control a population long used to violence and hardship, and who now have little to lose in putting themselves at risk in forcing political concessions," he said.
Mugabe's opponents have for long criticised the way elections are held in the country. Tsvangirai has, in the past, questioned the neutrality of the electoral commission, lamented absence of voters' roll and possibility of bogus voting.
(WION with inputs from agencies)