As tensions rise before the country’s August elections, Zimbabwean authorities charged 39 opposition activists with political violence after the alleged “demolishing” of a ruling party office on Monday.
The group allegedly stormed a ZANU-PF office in Nyatsime, south of the capital, last week, according to the prosecution. Since the country’s independence in 1980, the ZANU-PF party has been in charge.
The group “destroyed several houses and also assaulted members of the Nyatsime community thereby causing massive destruction to property and inflicted serious injuries on them,” prosecutors said.
The incident occurs as opposition parties and rights organisations have voiced concerns about a crackdown before the vote.
However, attorneys representing those in custody refrained from claiming that the accusations were made for political reasons.
“Our clients were not even at the scene,” Anesu Chirisa, legal lead at Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, an umbrella group representing the 39 told newsmen.
The 39 were arrested over the weekend and on Monday briefly appeared before a local court. They were remanded into custody after investigating authorities called for a “lengthy custodial sentence.”
The leader of the CCC, Nelson Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and preacher, wants to succeed President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, who is running for re-election on August 23.
Analysts are preparing for a contentious election in a nation where deep-seated resentment over poverty, power outages, and other necessities is present.
Critics claim there has been an upsurge in arbitrary arrests and repression and accuse the administration of utilising the courts to target opposition figures.
After an alleged altercation at a voter registration centre, five further CCC activists were detained earlier this month on a number of counts, including assault.