Top Zim opposition figure arrested

The leader of a rebel faction of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) became the most senior opposition politician to be arrested when he was held on Sunday over a written attack on President Robert Mugabe.

Arthur Mutambara, who recently pledged to work again with main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to defeat Mugabe at a run-off election this month, was picked up at his home in Harare, his party and lawyer said.

“He was arrested for publishing falsehoods and for contempt of court for an opinion article he wrote in April,” the lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, said.

One of his senior allies, former lawmaker Trudy Stevenson, confirmed that Mutambara was picked up at his Harare home by police on Sunday morning and taken to the central police station.

The editor of the country’s only independent Sunday paper, the Standard, was arrested last month over the piece written by Mutambara, which accused Mugabe of running down the Zimbabwean economy and his security forces of abuses.

Mutambara fell out with Tsvangirai in 2005 in a dispute over whether to contest elections to the largely ceremonial Senate, and commanded the loyalty of nearly half the parliamentary party until joint legislative and presidential elections on March 29.

However, his faction fared poorly in the elections and won only 10 seats in the 210-strong chamber while Tsvangirai’s camp won 99. The two men subsequently agreed to join forces in Parliament, although there has been no formal merger.

Nkomo said that he did not expect Mutambara, who lost his seat in the March 29 election, to be brought before a court until Tuesday.

“I am only expecting him in court on Tuesday as no questioning will take place today [Sunday]. The questioning will only start tomorrow,” he said.

Three MDC lawmakers have been arrested in Zimbabwe in the last month amid mounting violence in the approach to the run-off between Tsvangirai and Mugabe scheduled for June 27, although two are out on bail.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean police prevented the opposition from staging two rallies in the resort towns of Hwange and Victoria Falls that were due to be addressed by Tsvangirai, the party said on Sunday.

The rallies were supposed to have been held on Saturday, but police blocked opposition supporters from entering the two stadiums where the rallies were due to be held.

“Our two rallies that were supposed to be held yesterday [Saturday] in Hwange and Victoria Falls were blocked by the police,” Nelson Chamisa, chief spokesperson for the MDC, said.

“The police are literally trying to be difficult, but acting on the instructions of Zanu-PF,” he added.—AFP

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