Police recovered 210 anti-riot and 46 municipal police helmets stashed in the basement of Robinson House at the corner of Kwame Nkrumah Avenue and Angwa Street in Harare on Saturday.
Also recovered were stones, bricks and sticks believed to be earmarked for use in street violence.
It was not immediately clear how the helmets had been collected and for what purpose.
The cache was stumbled upon after police pursued a group of thugs that had attacked a police officer who reportedly was waiting for someone at the building.
Thugs — believed to be MDC-Alliance marshals — literally control the area near Harvest House, the party’s headquarters, and have often attacked motorists and citizens going about their business.
National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police tried to aid the poor officer but the rowdy youths only retreated into the basement after additional reinforcements arrived.
“A group of rowdy elements attacked a police officer who was about to meet his relative at Robinson House, these elements have declared the area a no-go area for police,” he said.
“Some officers who were nearby came to intervene but were also attacked, forcing them to call for back-up from Harare Central Police Station. When the hooligans saw that they were now being overpowered, they ran into the basement with the officers in pursuit.
“It was during the chase that they came across the helmets stashed in one of the rooms in the basement,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.
He said 12 people have since been arrested in connection with the incident.
“Those who were arrested are Helton Tamangani (29), Evans Chinganga (39), Tichaona Maziya (22), Petros Kaesa (44), Adoration Tafadzwa Madziwa (23), Lovemore Chitengo(42), Terrence Nyadundu (24), Robson Mutseta (31), Hillary Nyawasha (29), Wambo Denford (41), Blessing Chirodza (41) and David Tawanda Tedere (35).”
He said police strongly condemn the actions by hooligans who attacked the police and unruly elements for declaring some places a no go area for law abiding citizens.
Ast-Comm Nyathi said they were carrying out investigations to ascertain the origin of the helmets.
When The Herald visited the scene in the company of the police, there were heaps of stones and broken bricks stashed in some of the rooms in the basement.
The building’s caretaker (name withheld) said the helmets had been brought by one of the tenants.
“There is a young man who is a tenant here whom I saw carrying these helmets in his vehicle about two months ago but I did not see him entering the basement,” he said.
The caretaker said the stones and bricks had been stashed by the youths.
“These youths are violent and are always going in and out of the basement at will and at one time they even attacked me for no reason.”
People operating within the vicinity of the building called deploy officers around the building.
“We are afraid to conduct our business here because of the unpredictable nature of these youths who are activists from the opposition who are using this building the base for their operations.
“People are always being beaten here by these youths, law enforcement agents should close this basement because it is now a security concern. We are glad that their hideout has finally been discovered,” said one of the people before driving off.