from MARCUS MUSHONGA and DANAI MWARUMBA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWEAN authorities have arrested more suspects as they widen a crackdown on opposition political party supporters in the aftermath of contentious watershed elections last week.
Unconfirmed reports by human rights groups indicated more than 60 people had been arbitrarily arrested in the past week.
However, it has been confirmed three more suspects were arrested over the weekend, bringing the official number of suspects arrested to 27.
Their arrest followed the violence protest during the announcements of some parliamentary results as well as the tense wait for the outcome of the presidential election.
At least six people were shot dead as the military opened live ammunition against the protesters. Some civilians that were not part of the protests were reportedly caught in the crossfire. More than 20 people were wounded when the soldiers responded heavy-handedly to quell protests.
Appearing in court in the capital Harare on Monday, the suspects denied involvement in the skirmishes but alleged they were only caught up in the raid by the police on the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance offices.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), which is representing the suspects, stated that their clients, who also include some MDC Alliance party employees, had sought refuge and locked themselves inside Morgan Tsvangirai House, from where they were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police officers, after some members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces began firing gunshots outside the opposition party’s headquarters.
Lawyers told Harare Magistrate Nyasha Vhitorini that most of their clients were arrested at the party headquarters, where they had gone to surrender some election return material.
The suspects argued they were waiting to receive their transport and food allowances after serving as election agents for the MDC Alliance party in the ruling party stronghold of the Uzumba Maramba-Pfungwe constituency in Mashonaland East province during the harmonised elections.
The National Prosecution Authority (NPA), represented by Michael Reza, has opposed bail to the suspects.
The suspects are accused of committing public violence as defined in section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
They appeared in court amid tensions characterising the country after MDC Alliance and its candidate, Nelson Chamisa, claim the outcome of the harmonized elections.
Longtime rivals, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the MDC Alliance, have traded blame on the protests that marred the announcement of elections and the resultant bloodshed.
The elections were first to be held after longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe, was deposed in a military coup last November.
Human rights group, Amnesty International, meanwhile appealed to the Zimbabwean authorities must immediately stop arresting and harassing protesters and bystanders following post-election violence.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, said Mnangagwa must make good on his commitment to settling political differences peacefully, respectfully and within the confines of the law.
“He must begin by ordering the security forces to stop their vicious campaign of torture, intimidation and suppression of dissenting voices and mass arrests of opposition supporters,” Muchena said.
– CAJ News