Leaders of Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) alliance have been released on bail.
The group includes Vice Presidents Tendai Biti and Lynnette Karenyi-Kore.
They were arrested at the party headquarters on Friday after trying to gain access to the party headquarters that has become the new centre of conflict with the Thokozani Khupe led MDC-T.
A Harare Magistrate has granted them a Zimbabwean $1 000 bail each.
The group has been charged for contravening COVID-19 lockdown regulations and will be back in court on 24 July for a routine remand.
The MDC has been divided since Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruled on 30 March that Nelson Chamisa was not the party’s legitimate leader and installed Khupe, head of one faction inside the party, as an interim leader.
In the video below, court rules that MDC Alliance is not a political party:
However, most members are said to recognise Chamisa as the legitimate leader and accused Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnagangwa’s government of siding with Khupe’s faction in the battle for control of the movement.
Supporters of Khupe seized control of the party’s offices at Harvest House late on Thursday while police watched. Anti-riot police on Friday cordoned off the building, which has stood as a symbol of the MDC’s fight against Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party for the past two decades.
Some MDC officials, led by Biti, then tried to enter Harvest House.
“We are the rightful owners of the building and you have had no court order to stop us from entering,” Biti told the police officers blocking their way.
He and four other MDC officials were then arrested and transported to a police station in a lorry.
Chamisa has dismissed the charges against his comrades as unfounded.
“We are not celebrating because even the very charge itself was not founded. They committed no offence. Their only offence is that there is no offence. They have gone to Harvest House which is our place of work. They have gone there to do what we always do every day. As leaders, as officials, they had gone there to make sure that we transact our business and when they got there, they were told that they could not enter the building. What is quite disturbing for us is a new trend that we have seen; a trend of abuse of power, justice system, literally turning our chambers of justice into chambers of torture… The law is now being used as a weapon.” – Additional reporting by Reuters