Energy Minister Elton Mangoma was arrested Wednesday and charged with insulting President Robert Mugabe a few months ago at a rally just outside Bindura in Mashonaland Central Province.
Mangoma was picked up by four police officers from his Chaminuka building offices and driven to Bindura with his lawyers Selby Hwacha and Beatrice Mtetwa.
The police later drove them back to the capital city and headed to Harare Central Police Station where the deputy treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was released after signing a warned and cautioned statement.
Minister Mangoma told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo shortly after his release that he was arrested for allegedly "undermining the authority of the president".
He said he protested when he was picked up by the police.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said Mangoma’s arrest was meant to weaken his party ahead of the crucial second all-stakeholders’ conference set for the end of this month to discuss the country's draft constitution.
Mwonzora further said the arrest is also meant to derail Thursday’s talks with South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya of the Liberal Market Solutions told Violet Gonda the two MDC formations have failed to deal with President Mugabe’s party as the "Zanu PF machinery continues to abuse its partners in the coalition government.”
“Morgan Tsvangirai does not have a very specific strategic approach in dealing with Zanu PF. Sometimes we read that he has been conspiring against Welshman Ncube - sucking up to Zanu PF sending the wrong signals.
“So this is why perhaps even the running dogs of Zanu PF can afford to abuse Tsvangirai’s lieutenants because they know that Tsvangirai is lacking in strategic consistency.”
Ngwenya also said arresting a high profile MDC minister and coalition government negotiator sends a negative signal to the region, especially the Southern African Development Community facilitation team.
“They are just a reckless bunch of mobs who don’t really care about reputation unless of course the people that organized the arrest of Mangoma are not part of the mainstream Zanu PF faction that has a semblance of interest in the negotiating process.”
The senior MDC official is alleged to have said: "'Mugabe Chifa, Mugabe Chibva’ (Mugabe Die, Mugabe Go)" at a party rally in Bindura several months ago.
In 2011, Mangoma was charged with the alleged abuse of his public office and flouting of tender procedures following his decision to award South African firm, NOOA Petroleum, a contract to supply 5 million liters of fuel to the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe.
The company defaulted leading to fuel shortages over the Christmas and the New Year holidays. He was later acquitted of corruption by a judge.
Meanwhile, President Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu told Blessing Zulu Pretoria had been formally informed about Minister Mangoma’s brief detention.
Zulu said her team which is expected back in the country Thursday would also tackle the issue.
Sources said the negotiators are expected to hold talks with the MDC-T and Zanu PF on the constitution-making process and other outstanding Global Political Agreement issues.
Zulu though was not very forthcoming on the agenda of the meetings. The envoys met Monday with the Welshman Ncube led MDC.