A deputy mayor and 15 others have been arrested by the police following violent clashes in Bulawayo linked to succession battles in the main opposition MDC-T.
Founding leader of the party, Morgan Tsvangirai, succumbed to cancer last month at the age of 65.
The rise of one of the three deputies 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa has caused ructions among some MDC-T members.
The other two deputies – Thokozani Khuphe and Elias Mudzuri, have openly challenged Chamisa’s rise, claiming they are entitled to lead the party. Khuphe, 54, was elected MDC-T deputy president at the last congress while Chamisa and Mudzuri, 60, were both appointed as deputies by Tsvangirai before his demise.
Opposing factions from the party clashed on the streets of Bulawayo on Sunday. They threw stones at each other resulting in serious injuries and damage to cars and other property.
Following the incident, police on Tuesday arrested Bulawayo deputy mayor Gift Banda along with Councillor Mlandu Ncube, as well as 14 others.
Lawyer Dumisani Dube who is acting for the arrested said: “Banda and 15 others have been arrested for public violence and I am representing all of them”
Dube added: “The police are refusing to release them.”
Bulawayo police spokesperson, Inspector Precious Simango, said MDC-T party members had been picked up but she was “yet to verify [their number]” she said.
On Sunday, Khupe reportedly called for a meeting with party structures in Bulawayo, which she was addressing together with the party’s national organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe and suspended spokesperson Obert Gutu.
They were met with violent protests which left Khupe’s driver, Witness Dube, and several others seriously injured.
Meanwhile, MDC Alliance leader Chamisa was addressing a well attended rally in Chinhoyi, about 560 km north of Bulawayo.
The Sunday incident is the second in three weeks.
Khupe survived an attempt on her life at the burial of Tsvangirai on 20 February, after a group youths aligned to Chamisa threatened to torch a roundavel hut in which she had sought refuge.
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