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  1. ITV Report

Zimbabwe opposition leaders forced to flee anti-Mugabe rally after being teargassed

Anti-Mugabe protesters have become increasingly angry amid economic turmoil that has left cash shortages and high unemployment. Credit: Reuters

Zimbabwean's opposition leaders have been forced to flee a protest rally against President Robert Mugabe after being fired with tear gas by police as a court-sanctioned demonstration descended into violence.

A Reuters witness said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled the rally in their cars as more than 100 riot officers battled protesters.

Security forces have cracked down on rising protests against the 92-year-old Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF in recent months.

Riot officers armed with shields and batons clashed with demonstrators. Credit: Reuters

Tsvangirai and Mujuru had been due to lead the latest rally in the capital Harare, which was protected by the nation's High Court, to call for the government to introduce changes ahead of the next election in 2018.

The call for electoral reform is coupled with widespread anger over the country's economic turmoil that has left cash shortages and high unemployment.

Opponents of Robert Mugabe armed themselves with rocks during the clashes. Credit: Reuters

The latest clashes occurred as scores of riot officers occupied the venue that the emboldened opponents of Mugabe planned to use to march.

A Reuters witness said police, backed up by the water cannons and armoured trucks, fired on the protesters after they refused orders to leave the site.

A woman ran past teargas as opposition party supporters clashed with police in Harare. Credit: Reuters

A few dozen demonstrators threw rocks at the police and burned tyres on the roadside near the square where the public action was due to start.

"We are not going anywhere and demonstrating is the only solution left to force the dictator out of office," said Tapfuma Make, an unemployed 24-year-old.

An opposition supporter stood defiant against armed officers. Credit: Reuters

Zimbabwe's High Court ruled the authorities should allow the demonstration to proceed between 12pm and 4pm local time but police did not observe the order.

Zimbabwean journalist Privilege Musvanhiri tweeted a photograph of the court order carrying today's date.

Police used teargas and a water cannons on Wednesday to break-up a march by youth supporters of the MDC.