Zimbabwean opposition claims president’s supporters stoned one of their members to death

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Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said that one of its supporters was beaten and stoned to death while on his way to a political rally on Thursday, allegedly by activists from the ruling party, three weeks ahead of the country’s general elections.

The party offered no evidence to support its claim. Police said in a statement that “an incident of public violence” had left one person dead “as a result of the clashes” but did not refer to the victim’s political affiliation.

The southern African nation of 15 million people has a history of violent and disputed elections since it gained independence from white minority rule in 1980 following a bloody guerilla war. It will hold general elections on Aug. 23 to chose a president, the parliament and local government councilors.

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Ahead of the vote, there have been accusations that the administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is using violence and intimidation to crack down on its political rivals.

Fadzayi Mahere, spokeswoman for the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, said Tinashe Chitsunge was among the party’s supporters heading for a rally in a politically volatile township in the capital, Harare, on Thursday when they were “ambushed” by activists from the ruling ZANU-PF party who “assaulted and stoned” them.

Mnangagwa poster

A poster promoting Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is seen at party headquarters, Harare, Zimbabwe, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, file)

Images on social media showed the body of a man wearing the yellow colors of the opposition party lying on the ground in a pool of blood and apparently dead.

Other videos posted on social media purported to show ruling party supporters hurling rocks and stones at a truck carrying CCC followers to the rally in the Glen View township.

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The information ministry called for calm and for people to heed the president’s “message of peaceful campaigns, free contestation of ideas and political tolerance.”

Earlier on Thursday, a report by Human Rights Watch titled “Crush Them Like Lice” alleged that there has been “violence, intimidation, harassment, and repression” linked to Mnangagwa’s party and aimed principally at CCC members and civil society activists.

“ZANU-PF supporters have engaged in widespread harassment, threats, and acts of violence, preventing opposition parties from staging rallies, mobilizing, campaigning, and associating with supporters across the country,” the New York-based watchdog said.

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Mnangagwa took power after a coup in 2017 and won a disputed election in 2018. He and his officials have repeatedly denied allegations that they have overseen a campaign of violence and intimidation ahead of this month’s election, with the president often publicly telling his supporters to conduct peaceful campaigns.

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