Zimbabwe police loyal to ZANU-PF, the party of President Robert Mugabe, on Sunday detained two Cabinet ministers and about 20 other officials from the small Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Welshman Ncube.
Among those arrested Sunday were party president Welshman Ncube, who is also minister of industry and commerce, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, who is national healing minister and a negotiator at inter-party talks, Priscilla Misihairabwe-Mushonga, who is secretary-general of the party and also a negotiator, and veteran political leader Paul Themba Nyathi.
The group was traveling south along the road between Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo. They were taken to Hwange Police Station in Matabeleland North province.
Ncube said some hours later a local senior police officer in charge of the police station arrived, made some calls, and the group was freed without charge late Sunday.
Most of the group are founding members of the MDC, which is part of Zimbabwe's fragile and tense unity government, along with ZANU-PF and the larger MDC party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In northwest Zimbabwe, most people belong to the minority Ndebele tribe and have a long history of persecution from Mugabe’s militants.
Ncube said the policemen who detained them at the roadblock spoke Shona, the language of Zimbabwe’s majority tribe.
This was the largest group of senior political leaders opposed to ZANU-PF to be arrested at one time since Zimbabwe's unity government came to power.
Hundreds of legislators and officials from MDC-Tsvangirai, which is Zimbabwe's majority party, have been arrested since 2009.
Ncube, who is also one of Zimbabwe’s senior lawyers, said most of these arrests were “bogus.”
The most senior policeman in the area where Ncube and his colleagues were arrested is Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai, who is openly loyal to ZANU-PF.
Veterai is accused by huma-rights activists, lawyers and many victims of playing a significant role in political violence against the MDC since it won the 2008 elections, particularly in his previous senior post in southeastern Zimbabwe. He did not answer his telephone Monday.