Police brutally disrupt prayer for peace
Riot police loyal to Robert Mugabe’s regime disrupted a church service in Harare that had been convened to pray for peace on Saturday. Nine people were arrested as trigger happy police randomly tear-gassed the suburb of Glen Norah.
A truckload of about 20 armed riot police officers violently descended and disrupted the Praying for Peace to Save Zimbabwe Church Service at the Church of Nazarene, in Glen Norah.
An estimated 500 people including 4 Bishops and 46 pastors, from Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo and Gweru had congregated at the Church to pray for peace amidst the resurgence and escalation of politically motivated violence, arrests, polarization and the general breakdown of peace.
Those gathered also sought to commemorate the historic events of the March 11, 2007 Save Zimbabwe Prayer Rally. The rally, ironically, was also quashed by brutal and heavy handed police action, resulting in the death of Gift Tandare, the arrest and torture of hundreds of political, civil and ecumenical leaders together with some members of their organizations.
The Riot Squad, which stormed the Church of Nazarene during prayer, ordered everyone to disperse, while putting to use their arsenal which included AK 47 rifles, baton sticks and tear gas canisters which they fired into the church.
The ensuing pandemonium led to a stampede with some worshipers forced to escape through windows and run for dear life, as the armed squad had barricaded most exit routes which left several congregates including women and children from the adjacent neighborhood injured.
The squad went on to fire the tear gas canisters indiscriminately at several churches in the vicinity, as well as the general residential area around the church and Chitubu Shops.
At the time of writing, 4 clergymen, including 2 Bishops (Bishop Paul Isaya and Bishop Paul Mukome – who heads the Church of Nazarene, Pastor Nemukuyu and Pastor Caroline Sanyanga) had been arrested. In addition 5 other congregates, including Shakespeare Mukoyi, who is also the Deputy Chairperson for Harare Youth Assembly in the Movement for Democratic Change Led by Morgan Tsvangirai, were also arrested.
Several injuries were noted from the worshipers, and are being attended to at a local clinic. The Crisis Coalition fears that the list of causalities may increase as police seem to be keeping Virgil in Glen-Norah B, and also because of other injuries sustained by residents including children who are reeling under the toxic consequences of the tear gas.
The church service was initially scheduled to be held at St Peters Kubatana Centre but congregates had to relocate, after The Riot Squad barricaded the main entrance and refused access to worshipers. The Coalition contends that the reasons behind the violent disruption were clearly contrived and serves the narrow political interests of section of the regime who are full of paranoia.
The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) exempts’ church services from the need to be cleared by the police or for them to be notified of the activities of the church. The heavy-handed disruption of the church services is a shameful violation of the constitution of Zimbabwe, which allows for freedoms of religion and worship.
The attacks also fly in the face of the SADC Troika resolution of 31 March 2011 from Livingston, Zambia, which called on the government to allow free political activity and to put an end to violence and unwarranted arrests. The Coalition, reminds authorities, and urges them to take head, of the advice proffered by civil society to them on the 6th of April 2011, to attend to the message rather than attach the messenger.
Also amongst the worshipers were some senior representatives from political parties, civil society and church related organizations.