Two leading lawmakers from Zimbabwe’s opposition appeared in court Thursday, after the grisly murder of an activist ignited fears of intensifying political violence.
Dozens of riot police were deployed outside Harare Magistrates Court for the hearing in a case that started on Saturday, when police discovered the body of Moreblessing Ali.
The activist for the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) had been missing for two weeks. Her body was found mutilated and tossed into a well.
As the family mourned at her funeral Monday, supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF allegedly attacked the gathering.
In retaliation, CCC torched a house belonging to a ruling party official who lived nearby outside the capital Harare.
Lawmakers Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole were arrested Tuesday, with police blaming them for an “orgy of public violence”.
Both men were denied bail, as the riot police used to batons to disperse supporters outside.
“Regrettably, Zanu-PF continues to abuse the police service to the point where they’re only deployed when it comes to persecuting CCC members,” party spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere told AFP.
“The police must be left alone to execute their constitutional mandate of serving and protecting the citizens,” she added.
Ali’s death has sparked anger in Zimbabwe, with the CCC alleging that the killing was political.
Police on Thursday said they had arrested Pius Jamba over the killing. They describe him as an ex-lover of Ali’s and are treating the case as a domestic issue.
The opposition believes Ali’s killing was politically motivated.
President Emmerson Mnangangwa took power in a coup in 2017, ending Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
Zimbabwe is set to hold a general election next year. No opposition party has ever won an election and formed a government since the country’s independence in 1980.