Police arrest protesters, unleash dogs and teargas at NCA demonstration

Tuesday 26 July 2005, by International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)

(MISA/IFEX) - On 21 July 2005, a woman was severely mauled by police dogs and 33 people were arrested when riot police violently disrupted a peaceful demonstration by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Police also threw teargas at the NCA activists, who were protesting President Robert Mugabe’s proposal to amend the Constitution to introduce a Senate and nationalise land. There are fears that Mugabe is trying to get his cronies into Parliament through the backdoor. The NCA is calling for a popular Constitution written by the people, not by the government.

NCA Chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku said he was encouraged by the more than 400 people who took to the streets. He said police were taken by surprise because the group had not announced the action and the starting time was delayed to mislead security forces.

The Constitution Amendment Bill was gazetted the week of 18 July. Madhuku said only an undemocratic government would allow the bill to be debated in Parliament without any consultation with the main stakeholders, the people. Madhuku said despite the violent way the police broke up the demonstration it was encouraging to see the level of courage and determination in the people who participated.

"We had only told a small group of NCA activists, just to show that it’s possible for Zimbabweans to rise and demonstrate and hopefully encourage other participants in the Broad Alliance to say that it’s possible," Madhuku said.

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