Zimbabwe opposition backs down from protest to avoid "blood in the streets"

People react as Zimbabwean new President

Zimbabwe protests: Opposition MDC vows to defy police ban on rally

Chamisa's Movement for Democfratic Change (MDC) called off planned anti-government demonstrations on Friday, saying it aimed to avert bloodshed after police rounded up its followers and dispersed them with batons and water cannon.

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has described MDC leader Nelson Chamisa as being impossible after the youthful opposition politician snubbed his Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) to solve the country's crippling economic crisis.

In a statement last night, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the 91 were arrested for various offences arising from the illegal demonstration which the police had earlier prohibited.

Opposition MDC spokesperson Daniel Molekele addressing the press yesterday said all is set for the tomorrow's nationwide demonstration aimed at addressing all challenges the country is now facing.

"I left my vehicle at home because I belong to the party that organised this demo, so I have to participate, prohibition order or not", said Isaac Zibagwe, a 28 year old lawyer who arrived at the square shortly before police moved in. "A people's Government is going to be a creature of a settlement that has to come through comprehensive reforms, through a transition mechanism through an understanding that a roadmap we put on the table is followed", he said. They can't be above the people, they can't defeat the people.

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The government had banned an anti-government protest although the country's high court upheld it. Police are chasing demonstrators and arresting some.

Elected after the armed forces intervened to oust Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa has said he aims to break with the long legacy of repression that characterised much of his predecessor's 37 years in power.

On the eve of planned demonstrations, the European Union reiterates that citizens have rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and to peaceful protest. Power cuts last for 18 hours a day and inflation is on the rise.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa has more from Harare.

She also claimed said the police beat "an old woman, I heard she was seriously injured."This is worse than during colonial times", said a man who declined to be identified".

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The MDC said its protest would be peaceful.

On Thursday, the president urged the opposition to engage in dialogue. They duly did so and arrested some 91 opposition activists who attempted to defy the police and the court by congregating at some places in Harare in an attempt to march.

The country has since been repeatedly shaken by violent protests, with the opposition accusing the government of corruption, rising economic woes and clampdown on dissent.

Amnesty International accused Mnangagwa's administration of "using some of the brutal tactics seen under the government of Robert Mugabe", said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for southern Africa.

On Thursday, the government said it was concerned about reports of alleged abductions and torture of some people in Harare by unknown assailants, and said it suspected the involvement of a third force in the incidents. "The dire economic situation is now impacting negatively on the realization of the economic and social rights of millions of Zimbabweans".

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