Zimbabwe opposition official arrested over protests

A protester is beaten on the ground by police near Unity Square in Harare on August 16, 2019. Picture: Zinyange Auntony / AFP

A protester is beaten on the ground by police near Unity Square in Harare on August 16, 2019. Picture: Zinyange Auntony / AFP

In another incident, nine members of a rural teachers’ union and their lawyer were arrested for protesting poor remuneration and working conditions.

A senior official of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has been arrested for failing to stop an outlawed protest, the party said on Friday.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) organised several protests to highlight the collapsing economy in the southern African country, but the government has launched a crackdown on the rallies.

The MDC’s organising secretary Amos Chibaya was arrested on Thursday and appeared in court on Friday.

He will return to court on Monday for a bail application.

“Chibaya’s remand in custody is testimony of a brutal programme of persecution by prosecution,” the MDC tweeted.

Police said the arrest was in connection with a protest on August 16 in Harare.

The opposition party had planned to roll out marches to protest the ailing economic conditions in the country, starting in the capital.

The demonstrations were blocked after the police issued a prohibition order, stopping the demonstrations on the eve of the Harare march, on the pretext they would likely be violent.

But some MDC supporters still rallied in downtown Harare. The police descended upon them and rights groups say more than one hundred people were arrested while a dozen were injured.

Five marches slated for five other urban centres across the country were also blocked by authorities.

In another incident, nine members of a rural teachers’ union were arrested for demonstrating against poor remuneration and working conditions in downtown Harare on Friday, along with their lawyer, Doug Coltart.

Coltart and the teachers have been charged with “criminal nuisance”, lawyer and senior MDC official Fadzayi Mahere told AFP.

Coltart tweeted that he was beaten by police during the arrest. He posted pictures of the injuries sustained on his face and hands.

“I was pushed to the ground, beaten and kicked by riot police. I was simply asking the reason for my arrest — which is my constitutional right,” he said in a tweet.

“I was never informed of the reason for arrest. They put handcuffs so tight that I lost blood to my hands.”

The arrests are part of growing repression by a government faced with a worsening socio-economic situation characterised by shortages of fuel, bread, medicines among many basics and skyrocketing prices when goods are available.

On taking office, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power after the 2017 ousting of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, promised more freedoms and a revamp to the already ailing economy.

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