Zimbabwe To Hold Election In Four Months' Time – Mnangagwa
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa /AFP

Zimbabwe’s main opposition group has called off anti-government protests in the capital Harare at the last minute, after failing to overturn a police ban.

However, some protesters who had already gathered in the city were violently dispersed by police.

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The opposition said the ban exposed the “fascist” government’s true colours.

The demonstration was called in protest at the government’s handling of the economy, but police said they had evidence it could turn violent.

There is a heavy police presence and the city centre is subdued, with most shops closed.

About five million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, according to the UN.

Police announced they were banning the protests on Thursday evening.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) applied to the High Court to overturn the ban, but it was upheld by a judge on Friday morning.

Speaking to journalists after the court decision, MDC deputy leader Tendai Biti said the party would not appeal, but added that the ban had exposed the government’s “true colours”.

“The constitution guarantees the right to demonstration yet this fascist regime has denied and proscribed this right to the people of Zimbabwe,” he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

“We have jumped from the frying pan into the fire after the coup… We don’t accept the conduct of this regime, the conduct of [President Emmerson] Mnangagwa.”

Biti said that protests planned for next week in other cities would still go ahead.

Some opposition supporters had already gathered by the time the MDC announced the suspension.

But police quickly moved in to disperse the crowds.

Video and still pictures from the scene show officers beating protesters with batons as they chased them from the streets.