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Zimbabwe Opposition Parliament Member Found Dead in Prison - 2002-10-22

A member of parliament for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has been found dead in prison. Learnmore Jongwe had been in jail since July, when he handed himself over to the police after killing his wife.

The police said Mr. Jongwe became ill during the night and died. They acknowledge that he was not seen by a prison doctor.

Zimbabwe state radio reported that a full investigation into the cause of his death is underway.

The head of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, told a news conference that since Mr. Jongwe was in government custody at the time of his death, the government is accountable.

Officials of the Movement for Democratic Change say Mr. Jongwe was seen by friends from the opposition group on Monday, and they report he appeared in good health, and cheerful.

The legal committee of the Movement for Democratic Change says it sent a letter to the attorney general's office asking to inspect the cell where Mr. Jongwe died. The committee also said it requested that an independent pathologist attend the post-mortem.

Mr. Jongwe was awaiting trial on charges of murdering his wife, whom he said had been unfaithful to him.

Legal observers who have followed Mr. Jongwe's arrest and court appearances say if he had faced trial he would, almost certainly, have been found guilty of killing his young wife. They say he would have spent many years in prison.

In addition to being a member of parliament, Mr. Jonge was the chief spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change. He stepped down as spokesman after his wife's death.