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09 Sep 2004 17:13
Invoking sweeping security laws, police detained an opposition leader after a series of raids on the homes and offices of government opponents, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said on Thursday.
Nelson Chamisa, a lawmaker and head of the youth wing of the Movement for Democratic Change, was picked up on Wednesday by police who alleged that he held an illegal political meeting, the party said in a statement.
Chamisa was arrested after meeting with eight supporters, the statement said, adding that it was expected he would be charged under the security laws, which stipulate that any gathering of more than five people requires prior police approval.
The opposition accuses the government of using those laws to routinely harass political opponents. In this case, the Movement said it believed officials were trying to keep the party from celebrating its fifth anniversary on Saturday.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed that officers had raided the Movement’s offices in the city of Bulawayo on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that Chamisa had been arrested after being accused of holding an illegal meeting.
The police were acting on information from informants, the police spokesperson said, and were searching for subversive material but found none.
Chamisa was being held at a station near the western Harare district he represents in parliament.
Police also raided the Harare home of Lovemore Madhuku, head of the National Constitutional Assembly, a militant reform group, and arrested him for allegedly organisation an illegal demonstration on September 1, his group said.
Baton-wielding police broke up that protest against proposed government restrictions on charities and human rights groups.
Madhuku was released later Wednesday with charges pending under the Public Order and Security Act, according to Jessie Majome, an official with Madhuku’s group.
Madhuku has been arrested 15 times in the past two years, and 32 of the Movement’s current 51 lawmakers have been arrested since the last parliamentary election in 2000.
The opposition has said it plans to boycott a parliamentary election in March to protest unfair electoral laws and media and security laws that they say violate freedom of speech.
In the 2000 ballot, the opposition won 57 seats of 120 elected seats—the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian rule.
Since that election Mugabe—who personally appoints 30 lawmakers, allowing him to give his Zanu-PF party a sweeping parliamentary majority—has cracked down severely on dissent.
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