HARARE, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 17th August, 2016) - Zimbabwe police fired tear gas Wednesday to disperse several hundred protesters calling on President Robert Mugabe to step down, a week after the longtime ruler warned that protests "don't pay". An AFP journalist saw police officers beating protesters with batons, before firing on the crowd with tear gas. Some 200 people had gathered in central Harare, carrying flowers for peace and holding posters reading "Mugabe Must Go", the latest in a string of protests over the country's economic woes.
Onlookers, pedestrians and motorists were caught up in the melee Wednesday as anti-riot police moved in with their batons, maintaining a heavy presence in the city centre after the demonstration was dispersed. "Things like protests don't pay because usually they end up being violent protests," Mugabe said last week. "What does it help to go in the streets with the intention to show that you are able to throw stones? To throw stones, to hit the police with stones -- we do not want that.
" Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for 36 years. But as his cash-strapped government struggles to pay civil servants and the military on time, the veteran leader has faced mounting opposition fuelled by internet activism using the hashtag "ThisFlag" -- a reference to wearing the national flag in public. Several war veterans' leaders, long seen as loyal allies of Mugabe, have also been arrested after issuing a strongly-worded statement last month calling on the president to step down.
Protest leader Promise Mkwananzi said Wednesday's demonstration was just a build-up to a "national shutdown" on August 31. "There will be no business as usual," he told AFP. "Everybody must participate." Mugabe, 92, is increasingly fragile but has vowed to stand for re-election in 2018, though party seniors have long been jockeying to step into the role when he dies. Mugabe's wife Grace and vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa are among the possible successors to the world's oldest president.