Zimbabwe: 16 suspects arrested for violence against opposition

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At least 16 suspects have been arrested by Zimbabwean police in connection with the violence that left 22 people injured and one dead at an opposition rally on Sunday, the police say the attackers are ruling party activists.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said another suspect on the run was wanted for the killing of an activist, who witnesses said was speared at the rally in Kwekwe, central Kenya. According to the police, activists from the ruling Zanu-PF, dressed in yellow, the colour of their enemies from the main opposition Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC), ambushed them.

The opponents were on their way to the venue where the leader of their party, Nelson Chamisa, the main rival of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF, which has been in power since independence, was to speak. The clashes forced Chamisa to cut short his speech. The attackers used machetes, knives, catapults and traditional whips in an outburst of violence, according to the police.

"Towards the end of the speech, Zanu-PF youths intercepted two people wearing CCC T-shirts and threw stones at them. After the scuffle, the deceased was stabbed three times in the back with a sharp object," the police memo said.

The European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, described the violence as a "heinous act", adding that "a level playing field must be guaranteed for the election campaigns", a month before by-elections scheduled for 26 March.

Zanu-PF communications director Tafadzwa Mugwadi in turn accused the opposition of inciting violence. An online video shows an unidentified CCC official encouraging his party's youth to take revenge after the weekend violence.

On Saturday, police had already violently dispersed hundreds of opponents in Gokwe, some 140km away, claiming they were understaffed to properly police the rally.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe in 2017 and ruled with an iron fist for 37 years, is regularly accused of wanting to muzzle any dissenting opinion.

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