Zimbabwean police responding Monday to the death of an officer in a confrontation with alleged members of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai arrested more than 15 party activists, sources in Harare said.
Zimbabwe Republic Police Superintendent Andrew Phiri said officers sent to break up an MDC meeting in the populous Harare suburb of Glen View were confronted by activists who attacked them with stones and other makeshift weapons. Inspector Petros Mutedza died in the melee and another officer was seriously injured, police said.
Observers commented that the policeman's death is certain to boost tension between the MDC on the one hand and the police and the former ruling ZANU-PF party on the other.
The Tsvangirai MDC formation has accused the national police of favoring ZANU-PF, led by President Robert Mugabe, while cracking down on the former opposition. The police force has issued reports accusing the MDC of responsibility for political violence.
Police spokesman Phiri told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that those responsible for Mutedza's death will pay a heavy price.
Phiri would not say if there any high-profile MDC party officials were sought in connection with the incident. But an MDC insider said the police were looking for Glen View Member of Parliament Paul Madzore for questioning.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that his party had no involvement in the incident. "We deny any involvement, and we condemn the police for rushing to arrest our members without first investigation," he said.
Political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga said that if the allegations are proven, the MDC could be playing into the hands of ZANU-PF.