Zimbabwe police beat opposition marchers demanding jobs

MDC protesters with a banner calling for jobs, protesting in Harare, Zimbabwe - 27 August 2014 The MDC protesters wanted to present their demands to the speaker of the national assembly

Zimbabwean riot police have beaten opposition protesters who were trying to march to parliament to demand jobs.

About 20 people were injured and two opposition MPs were among a dozen people briefly detained.

The 100-strong crowd demanded measures to help reduce the unemployment rate, which stands at about 80%.

Earlier this week, the central bank said foreign investment in Zimbabwe had more than halved this year because of negative perceptions of the country.

The landslide victory of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party in elections in July 2013 has coincided with a rapid slowdown in the economy.

Start Quote

The children of Zimbabwe are suffering”

End Quote Agency Gumbo Student leader

The previous unity government, when Zanu-PF shared power with the Movement for Democratic Change, saw Zimbabwe recover from hyperinflation and its economic free-fall.

The country's central bank chief John Mangudya blamed the decline in foreign investment on investors' failure to understand the government's policy to hand economic control to black Zimbabweans, a key Zanu-PF campaign promise.

'Unlawful demonstration'

The BBC's Brian Hungwe in the capital, Harare, says MDC youths were marching towards parliament when riot police drove towards the demonstration beating drums on the back of open trucks.

A riot policeman chasing an MDC protester in Harare, Zimbabwe - Wednesday 27 August 2014 The police broke up the march and chased the demonstrators

"We are demonstrating to demand jobs - demanding that the government put in place legislation that encourages job creation because the children of Zimbabwe are suffering," one of the protesters, student leader Agency Gumbo, told the BBC.

The protesters said they wanted to present a petition to the speaker of national assembly with their demands.

Our reporter says the police then sealed off a main road and began attacking the marchers with batons. In the chaos MDC youths started throwing stones.

Fifteen people were arrested and later released - and about 20 people were treated in hospital for their injuries.

A police spokesman said that officers dispersed "unruly elements" from the centre of Harare as they were blocking traffic and throwing stones.

"The constitution of Zimbabwe does not allow people to demonstrate unlawfully," the AFP news agency quotes police spokesman Paul Nyathi as saying.

Our correspondent says the new constitution approved last year expands civil liberties and allows for freedom of expression.

Similar demonstrations, called for by the MDC leader, are planned for Thursday.

Such cat and mouse games with the police are becoming a common feature in the capital, our reporter says.

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