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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader, Others Detained Ahead of Election

  • Peta Thornycroft

In Zimbabwe, opposition leader Arthur Mutambara, and his party's candidate for a special parliamentary seat election Saturday have been detained, along with 50 other opposition party officials.

The detentions were carried out during an early morning election campaign event Friday in the small business district near the poverty-stricken Harare suburb of Budiriro.

Among those detained were Arthur Mutambara, president of one faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and his candidate, Gabriel Chaibva.

Priscillla Mushonga, one of those picked up, said the group was taken to a police station and held for six hours, before being released to the custody of lawyers. She said the group must report back to the police station Monday. She said she did not know under which laws they would be charged.

Police public relations officials were not available for comment Friday.

Saturday's election is to replace an opposition legislator who died earlier this year. There are three candidates for the seat, one from each faction of the Movement for Democratic Change and one from the governing ZANU-PF party.

This is the first time the two factions of the opposition have faced each other for a parliamentary election since the party split last October.

Founding MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai's candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, was suspended from the MDC in June last year, accused of playing a role in intra-party violence, which lead to the party split a few months later.

President Robert Mugabe held a rally for his party's candidate on Thursday. He said the Movement for Democratic Change, referring to both factions, was doomed to failure.

Mutambara, the MDC leader who was arrested Friday, returned to Zimbabwe earlier this year, after 15 years studying and working abroad.

As a student leader in the 1980s, he lead protests against Mr. Mugabe's rule.

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