The United Nations (UN) on Friday urged Zimbabwe not to crack down on peaceful protesters, after Zimbabwean police fired tear gas and beat up more than a 100 opposition supporters with batons moments earlier, after they defied a protest ban in central Harare, according to witnesses.

Zimbabwe police combed Harare’s streets rounding up suspected opposition supporters, enforcing a clampdown on dissent after using water cannon to break up a protest that authorities had declared illegal.

In Geneva, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights agency, Rupert Colville, urged the authorities, not to crackdown on peaceful protesters and to ensure that people’s right to freedom of expression is respected.

Colville said that ahead of the planned protest, there had been worrying reports of threats against people who wanted to participate in demonstrations and protests about the current economic situation.

There had also been reports of surveillance of such people, and also reports of attacks and arrests of prominent activists and civil society leaders who were taking part in organizing today protests.

Friday’s street demonstration was to have been the first in a nationwide series of protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of state-sponsored violence, corruption and economic mismanagement.

The gathering was banned by police on Thursday, and the MDC called the protest off early on Friday after armed police barred access to the party’s Harare offices and its court appeal against the ban failed, but more than 100 MDC supporters defied the order.

Anger is mounting as Zimbabweans grapple with triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of US dollars, fuel and bread – bringing back memories of the hyperinflation of a decade ago that forced the country to ditch its currency.

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