HARARE, Zimbabwe – In Zimbabwe, robust police responses to protests aren't usually captured on video or are quickly deleted at the demand of authorities. But not last weekend, when footage showed an anti-government protester shouting in the lobby of a luxury hotel and haranguing police until they move in and drag him away.
The confrontation revealed the frustrations of many in a country where the economy continues to plummet.
The video that emerged over the weekend shows, from start to chaotic finish, a protest by activists angry at Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko's 18-month stay in a $400-a-night hotel suite in the capital, Harare.
The majority of Zimbabwe's citizens survive on just a dollar a day, the official statistics agency says.
"He is refusing to stay in a house worth $3.5 million," activist Sten Zvorwadza says in the video, shot by a journalist with a local newspaper group.
"We have a right to demonstrate!" Zvorwadza adds before moving toward the gathering police officers, daring them to crush the protest.
The truncheon-carrying police oblige. They swarm over Zvorwadza. He clings to an officer's legs, resisting, but others drag him by the belt into a police truck.
Zvorwadza then slips from the officers' grasp and lunges over the side of the truck and onto the tarmac, crying out in pain. The officers bundle him back in.
Zvorwadza was charged with threats to commit malicious damage to property. On Monday, a magistrate freed him on $200 bail and ordered him to stay away from the hotel.
Human rights groups and the opposition say dissent is usually punishable by severe beatings, torture or even jail time in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's government has long been accused of repressive measures.
Police made sure Zvorwadza endured two cold nights in custody without a blanket, according to his lawyer, Marufu Mandevere.
"Vice President Mphoko cannot live like a king at taxpayers' expense when the rest of us are suffering," Zvorwadza told The Associated Press after his release.
The vice president has defended his stay in the luxury hotel.
"The house that the government has bought me is not even worth $3 million. It's $1 million-plus-something," the state-run Herald newspaper on Monday reported him saying, explaining that he snubbed the house for security reasons.