Police in rural Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, detained opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday in a repeat of a similar episode Wednesday, releasing him two hours later but reported issuing a ban on his political rallies.
Tsvangirai, head of the dominant grouping of the Movement for Democratic Change, is to face President Robert Mugabe on June 27 in a presidential run-off. He claimed an official 47.9% of the March 29 first-round ballot, compared with Mr. Mugabe's 43.2%. The MDC says Tsvangirai topped 50% but the ballot was rigged.
Tsvangirai was detained for two hours by police in Esigodini, Matabeleland South. He was delayed for 20 minutes earlier in the day at a police roadblock while heading to a campaign rally scheduled to take place at How Mine. But the rally was canceled after pro-Mugabe militia and war veterans blocked access to the mine compound.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena dismissed MDC charges that authorities are interfering with Tsvangirai's campaign, saying it is routine for police to make stops at roadblocks. MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said police also banned rallies in the Harare suburbs of Glen Norah, Kambuzuma and Mufakose.
Chamisa said the MDC received a letter from police authorities prohibiting its rallies, saying that because the party has warned its leaders face assassination, authorities are obliged to prevent situations in which such attacks might take place.
Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the police are doing all they can to hamper Tsvangirai's presidential campaign, but the party will press regardless.