Zimbabwe's police formally accused the country's main opposition leader on Thursday of "disorderly conduct" in connection with his recent tour of stores hurt by the government's controversial price freeze, his lawyer said. Morgan Tsvangirai was quizzed by police for nearly an hour in the capital and then released from custody, one day after being instructed to appear.
Zimbabwe’s police formally accused the country’s main opposition leader on Thursday of “disorderly conduct” in connection with his recent tour of stores hurt by the government’s controversial price freeze, his lawyer said.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the biggest faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was quizzed by police for nearly an hour in the capital, Harare, and then released from custody, one day after being instructed to appear.
“He was charged ... with disorderly conduct and he was made to sign a warned and cautioned statement,” Alec Muchadehama, Tsvangirai’s lawyer, said. Muchadehama added that his client had denied the charges.
A decision on whether he would face trial or not would depend on the outcome of the investigation now under way.
Tsvangirai was among a number of opposition members who were arrested and beaten by police during an aborted protest rally in March. The incident sparked international outrage and renewed calls for pressure on President Robert Mugabe’s government.
A former trade union leader, Tsvangirai further angered authorities on August 1 when he visited shops to find out how businesses were coping with the government’s order to slash and then freeze prices of bread, milk and other consumer items.
The policy was aimed at controlling Zimbabwe’s runaway inflation, which is now above 7 600%. Business owners, however, have stopped restocking their shelves or have shut their doors rather than sell goods at a loss.
Tsvangirai, who was accompanied by journalists during his tour, called the government’s programme unsustainable, saying it had worsened the food shortages that have been a staple of life in the economically-embattled Southern African nation for years.
Police have accused Tsvangirai of compromising security arrangements at the stores he visited. They plan to investigate the case and possibly issue him with a court summons, Muchadehama said.
If found guilty of disorderly conduct, Tsvangirai could be jailed for up to six months or fined.
The MDC leader, however, has shown no signs of backing off his criticism of Mugabe’s government, which he has accused of political repression and economic mismanagement.
Zimbabweans are grappling with a deep economic crisis that has led to shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel, rocketing unemployment and rising poverty. Many in the once prosperous country are unable to feed their families.—Reuters