HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — One person died and others were injured in clashes at an opposition party rally in Zimbabwe over the weekend, police said Monday. The country’s main opposition leader claimed his supporters were attacked by ruling party supporters armed with machetes, spears and stones.
Police spokesman Paul Nyathi confirmed the death and said 16 people had been arrested in connection with the violence at opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s rally on Sunday in Kwekwe town. The police are investigating.
Chamisa told reporters on Monday that people who “wanted to shed blood” attacked the rally and blamed the ruling ZANU-PF party for the attacks. A government spokesman denied this.
Members of opposition parties in Zimbabwe have for years been the target of attacks and harassment by ruling party supporters and security forces. Hundreds defied police by firing tear gas and using water cannons to cheer on Chamisa at another rally on Saturday.
The unrest comes ahead of elections on March 26 to fill more than 130 vacant seats in parliament and local councils. The politically unstable southern African nation is due to hold general elections next year.
Chamisa lost a disputed presidential election in 2018 to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Chamisa, a 44-year-old lawyer and pastor, held his first rally earlier this month after forming a new party. He split from the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition party, last month.
Mnangagwa took over as leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party and as president after a military uprising forced Robert Mugabe from power in 2017.
Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, was also accused of overseeing a regime that suppressed all opposition. He died in 2019.
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