Zimbabwean lawyers on Thursday filed an urgent application in the nation's High Court asking it to order the arraignment or release of at least 25 members of the Movement for Democratic Change held by police in connection with the death this week of a policeman in a Harare suburb, allegedly in the course of breaking up an MDC political meeting.
The MDC formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the party has now identified 25 of its members among those arrested following the death of Inspector Petros Mutedza’s death following a melee at a liquor store on Sunday in Glen View. The party said some of those held have serious injuries but are not receiving medical care.
The police had been denying that they were holding any MDC supporters. But attorney Marufu Mandevere, representing the detained MDC members, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that after the the application was filed in the Supreme Court the police invited lawyers for the political party members to interview their clients.
Rhetoric continued to run hot in Harare. Co-Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi was quoted by Zimbabwean state media as saying police deployed to political meetings will from now on be armed so they can defend themselves from possible attacks.
Mohadi warned Zimbabweans that the national police "is going to defend itself because some people have declared war on us. We did not declare war on them.”
Mohadi was not available for comment. But Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said she was not aware of the new arms policy.
Elsewhere, a Glen View family said it had fled its home under police pressure following Mutedza's death. A spokesman for the family, which asked not to be identified, said that it had sought police clearance for a birthday party on Sunday, but were surprised when police later charged that MDC activists implicated in the death had been at the party.
The family spokesperson said a police officer was stationed at the Glen View home.
Political tensions in the country were surging with ZANU-PF pressing for elections this year and the MDC accusing police of cracking down on its supporters.
For perspective ahead of a special Southern African Development Community summit in South Africa next week, VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo turned to ZANU-PF lawmaker Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Senator Obert Gutu of the Tsvangirai MDC.
Gutu said the Zimbabwe Republic Police has deteriorated into a partisan force favoring the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and persecuting the former opposition MDC. Bhasikiti said MDC activists continue to harbor an opposition mentality which regards the national police as an adversary and seeks to undermine the institution.
In Masvingo, Youth and Development Deputy Minister Tongai Matutu said youths must shun being used as tools of violence by politicians. Challenging political leaders across the political divide to come clean on political violence, Matutu implored the media to name and shame those aiding and abetting political violence in the country.