Zimbabwe: One killed, seven injured in pre-election clash

JOHANNESBURG, 22 January (IRIN) - One man died and seven people were injured - two critically - in an attack on a ZANU-PF meeting in Kuwadzana, a suburb of Harare which is preparing for a local election.
Assistant police commissioner Wayne Bvudzidjena told IRIN on Wednesday the meeting was attacked on Monday night allegedly by members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who were armed with batons, whips and petrol bombs.

"We have arrested 16 people and they will be charged with murder and malicious damage to property," he said, adding that "facts on the ground" showed that the attackers were allegedly from the opposition.

Recent elections in Zimbabwe have been characterised by allegations of violence and intimidation by both of the main parties.

Three candidates have so far registered to contest the seat left vacant by the death in prison of the MDC's Learnmore Jongwe, who was awaiting trial on charges of murdering his wife.

"Campaigning hasn't picked up and we are also suprised by the sudden attack by the other party members," Bvudzijena said.

Commenting on the attacks MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said: "We as a party condemn violence of any form. His ZANU-PF counterpart Nathan Shamuyarira said: "We condemn the attack."

Both parties accused each other of undemocratic practices in the lead up to the election.

The MDC will field former student leader Nelson Chamisa who is a member of the party's national executive committee, the chairman of the party's youth wing, and a member of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).

The ZANU-PF candidate is David Mutasa, who Shamuyarira describes as "an artist and a strong supporter of the party for many years".

The third candidate is Kempton Chiwewete, from the National Alliance for Good Governance.

The Electoral Supervisory Commission said that although the election date had not yet been announced, preparations were proceeding well.

Meanwhile, in response to concerns over the safety of players and spectators at the World Cup Cricket scheduled for next month, Bvudzijena said that the government had appointed a security task force headed by national police operatives in Bulawayo and Harare, where the matches would be held, and were working with the Zimbabwe Cricket Council as a safety measure.

Police are still investigating after discovering a store of arms on a farm, which observers fear may have been used during the cricket matches.

News agency Associated Press reported that the International Cricket Council (ICC) have sent a security delegation to Zimbabwe, including ICC president Malcolm Speed and tournament director Ali Bacher for a "security visit" following concerns about matches to be played in the two cities amid political and economic uncertainty.

The opposition is among the groups lobbying for the games to be moved away from Zimbabwe.

The news agency also reported that 25 people were arrested in an anti-government protest by the NCA on Wednesday.


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