19 arrested at Zimbabwe pre-election protest
Nineteen people, including 10 journalists, were arrested Thursday as Zimbabwe’s main opposition staged a protest at being excluded from preparations for the next elections.
The journalists were released without charge two hours later, while nine protesters were still being held in the capital Harare.
About 40 supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-Alliance) tried to enter offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which was meeting on preparations for the 2023 elections.
The commission has excluded the party from the pre-election meetings, which the MDC-Alliance argues puts it at a disadvantage in the runup to the polls. All other parties are allowed at the meetings.
“The regime is panicking,” party spokeswoman Fadzai Mahere.
Other protesters scattered as police started arresting the peaceful protesters.
“There was absolutely no justification for their arrest,” said Chris Mhike of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who represented the detained journalists.
The commission is readying voter registration and other preparations for only the second polls since Robert Mugabe was deposed in a coup in 2017.
Mugabe, who died in 2019, was deposed by his erstwhile ally Emmerson Mnangagwa.
He consolidated power after winning hotly contested elections in 2020 and has since made a series of legal changes to strengthen the presidency.