Frightened parishioners, among them children and old people, were forced to stampede out of the church, some through windows resulting in many sustaining cuts from broken glass.
“Police just stormed the church and began to throw teargas wantonly dismissing people. They simply ordered people to get out and get home,” narrated Bishop Ancelimo Magaya.
Two priests were taken into police custody during the chaotic scene and by late Saturday, lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were battling to secure their release.
It was not clear what offences they were being charged.
The MDC also claims its Harare province vice chairman Shakespeare Mukoyi was kidnapped by alleged Zanu PF “thugs” soon after the meeting.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was also expected to join the prayer meeting which was also meant to remember the death of slain party activist and district leader Gift Tandare in March 2007 where he was also brutalised by the police.
“The incident frightened us a lot because we never expected police can storm a church to disrupt a sermon,” said Rev Useni.
“We are preparing a document in which we as churches would send to JOMIC to register our displeasure with today’s incident.”
Even after the parishioners had been dispersed, there was a tense atmosphere among residents some of whom had fled into houses neighbouring the church to seek refuge as anti riot police continued to patrol the area.
Reverand Useni Sibanda of the Christian Alliance of Zimbabwe, organisers of the prayer meeting, said they were going to file a complaint with government’s Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC).
The incident happened hardly a week after police were also dispatched to disrupt an MDC gathering in which Tsvangirai led his followers in unveiling the tombstones of party activists killed during the 2008 political violence.
Meanwhile, in a rare show of solidarity with the rival MDC formation, the smaller MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube condemned the police attack on worshippers.
“The Movement For Democratic Change condemns in strongest terms the unruly behaviour displayed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police at the church of Nazarene in Glen Norah,” party deputy spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said in a statement.
“The MDC has been shocked by the police behaviour towards harmless worshippers who had gathered to seek spiritual intervention towards Zimbabwe’s political crisis.
“The devilish disruption of the Save Zimbabwe prayer meeting by the police is clear testimony of Zanu PF’s defiance and disrespect of the SADC leadership and resolutions of the Livingstone troika meeting on Zimbabwe.”