Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader said his party backed down from planned anti-government protests on Friday to avoid bloodshed but signalled that the opposition would continue its challenge to President Emmerson Mnanagwe with changed tactics.

“They can’t defeat the people,” the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa told reporters at a news conference in Harare.

Police in the Zimbabwean capital enforced a clampdown on dissent earlier on Friday, using batons and firing tear gas and a water cannon to break up an opposition protest that authorities had declared illegal.

The street demonstration was to have been the first in a nationwide series of MDC organised protests set to continue next week.

The party accuses Mnangagwa’s government of state-sponsored violence, corruption and economic mismanagement.