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Trial of Zimbabwe Opposition Party Members Postponed - 2002-11-12

Zimbabwe's high court has postponed indefinitely a trial in which members of the opposition are accused of murdering a ruling party supporter.

In a ruling Monday, Zimbabwe's high court said the government failed to produce evidence to continue with the murder trial of six members of the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change.

They were arrested a year ago and accused of abducting Cain Nkala, strangling him, and burying his body near Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo.

Mr. Nkala, besides being a member of the ruling Zanu-PF party, had played a part in the government sponsored invasions of white owned land that began in February 2000.

He had also been implicated in the disappearance of an opposition official before the general elections in June 2000.

There was intense speculation that shortly before Mr. Nkala's was killed, he was going to speak out and accuse the ruling Zanu-PF of murdering the opposition official.

A short while after his death, police arrested two young opposition supporters. They were shown on state controlled television saying they murdered Mr. Nkala. They also implicated several other members of the opposition who were then arrested. Six people were finally charged. Later the two young men, who have now been in detention for a year, told their lawyers they had been tortured into making confessions.

Of the six opposition members on trial, Fletcher Dulini-Ncube is the most senior. He is a member of parliament and, until his arrest, was treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Dulini-Ncube is a diabetic and his doctors say he has lost the sight in one eye because of inadequate medical treatment while in detention. Several months after his release on bail his eye had to be surgically removed.

From the time Mr. Nkala's body was found last year, Zimbabwe authorities have given his murder a lot of attention. Government officials immediately blamed his death on the Movement for Change, saying it was part of a terrorist plot against the ruling party.

The trial will only resume if the state finds sufficient evidence to continue. Lawyers say they are now hoping to get the two who were first arrested released from prison. The other were have been released on bail.