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Sat, 24 Feb 2018 12:10 - Updated Sat, 24 Feb 2018 12:09

Zimbabwe police probes death of 2 following clashes in central Harare

HARARE - Police chief Godwin Matanga on Friday said that the number of people who died following the violence that erupted in central Harare on Thursday night was two, instead of one as previously reported.

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Matanga told a press conference that four other civilians were seriously injured and property worth thousands of U.S. dollars was damaged.

He said investigations were underway to establish the cause of the violence which also left three police officers injured.

Describing the incident as unfortunate and regrettable, Matanga said culprits would be dealt with decisively.

"Let me categorically state that the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seized with this matter and I have since directed a team of expert investigators to extensively establish the cause - what transpired, who was responsible - and action will be taken.

"These investigations will leave no stone unturned. Perpetrators will be brought to book and there are no sacred cows," he said. "Violence in whatever form is not tolerated."

Matanga said a team of police officers was approached by an angry mob who threw stones at them demanding to know why they had earlier on dispersed them.

The clashes apparently started after the police tried to stop a commuter omnibus driver from dropping off passengers at an undesignated point following a ban of commuter omnibuses from entering the city center.

The driver is said to have resisted the police action, leading to an altercation and intervention by restive members of the public who sided with the driver.

The police managed to disperse the crowd by firing teargas, but it regrouped and stormed the police station.

"The crowd advanced aggressively toward the police, throwing stones, and then police officers fired warning shots, but the mob was not deterred," Matanga said. "It was at this stage that the police officers fired shots that unfortunately killed two people and injured four others."

"The bodies of the deceased are at Parirenyatwa Hospital mortuary. We are appealing to information that may lead to their identification since they did not carry any identification particulars."

The fracas followed Harare City Council's ban on commuter omnibuses from the inner city starting Thursday, resulting in commuters walking long distances to and from the drop-off and pick-up points because they could not afford the shuttle fares to complete their trips.

Many commuters were not happy with the council move, but city mayor Bernard Manyenyeni laid the blame on the government which he suggested had initiated the ban.

"We are concerned and urge the ministry (of local government) to suspend the operation until revised or modified to remove the problems encountered so far," he said in a statement.

The government also on Thursday reversed the ban, with Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing July Moyo saying that the action was not in the interest of Harare residents.

However, the reversal was not immediately relayed to the police and other security agencies who continued to enforce the ban in support of the council, Matanga said.  Xinhua

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