Harare - A senior Zimbabwe opposition official has raised the possibility that "agents provocateurs" were behind looting and violence in Harare this week.
Police vans and a vehicle belonging to the state ZBC broadcaster were set on fire and two shops reported looted in ugly scenes that broke out Wednesday during a march by supporters of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change.
Zimbabwe's minister for higher education Jonathan Moyo said on Twitter that a "red line" had been crossed by "political hooligans".
But former education minister David Coltart - who is not a member of Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC - said he was "deeply suspicious" of the rioting, suggesting it could have been stage-managed to justify a harsh new clampdown.
Tweeted Senator Coltart: "The real danger of today's violence is that it may have been sponsored or fuelled by agent provocateurs who need 2 (to) justify martial law."
Firemen extinguish a vehicle set alight by protesters in Harare after Zimbabwe police fired tear gas, water cannons and gunshots to stop hundreds of youths protesting against police brutality. (AP)
Zimbabwe People First, the party founded by ex-vice president Joice Mujuru responded from its official account: "You hit the nail on the head. It's part of the grand strategy to foil Friday's march" .
Opposition parties are planning a combined march in Harare on Friday.
Critics of President Robert Mugabe's government and diplomats have condemned Wednesday's violence, which also saw police using their batons to beat people on the streets of the capital and throwing teargas (including inside a minibus, according to video footage posted to social media).
Watch the video below.
Said @P_VanDamme_EU, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe: "You cannot build a democratic, rules-based future on violence. #NoToViolence-from wherever it comes."