Zimbabwe police share blame for soccer stampede - 10/11/2000
The Zimbabwe police are accepting some of the blame for the tragic soccer stampede that killed 13 people in Harare earlier this month.
After a preliminary internal investigation, Police Chief Augustine Chihuri concluded that several officers were "derelict" in their duty.
"The performance of our police officers who were on duty on the day leaves a lot to be desired," said Chihuri.
According to Chihuri, some of the officers may be charged with culpable homicide.
Violence at Harare stadium erupted during a World Cup qualifier after fans, angered by what they perceived to be bad officiating, began throwing bottles and jumping onto the field.
In an attempt to stop the mounting chaos police fired tear gas into the stands.
The 50,000 frightened spectators trampled each other in a mad dash for the exits. The mass escape left 12 people dead. Another spectator died in hospital the next day.
Chihuri also agreed with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's assertion that agitators planted in the crowd by the opposition party were partly to blame for the tragedy.
Chihuri claimed police had evidence that 300 opposition agitators were deliberately placed in one grandstand to disrupt the match.
Officials for the opposition party repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that Mugabe is just trying to defend an unjustifiable act by police.
During the match fans gave the opposition party's open hand salute and held up red cards -- a symbol of government defiance during last month's election campaign.
According to witnesses, police initially fired tear gas at spectators who flashed the opposition party's salute.
In last month's elections, the opposition party -- the Movement for Democratic Change -- put a dent into Mugabe's 20-year hold on power, winning 57 seats compared to the ruling party's 62.
The election was marred by violence. At least 31 people died during the election campaign, most of them opposition supporters.