June 1, 2008 / 4:32 PM / 11 years ago

Two Zimbabwe opposition figures arrested

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean police have arrested the leader of a breakaway faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and an opposition member of parliament, their representatives said on Sunday.

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party leader Arthur Mutambara addresses supporters at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, March 2, 2008. REUTERS/Emmanuel Chitate

Arthur Mutambara, who leads an MDC splinter group, was arrested on Sunday for publishing an article critical of President Robert Mugabe.

Eric Matinenga, an opposition legislator and lawyer to the main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, was picked up on Saturday in the eastern district of Buhera and was being charged with inciting public violence, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

In his April 20 article in the privately owned weekly The Standard, Mutambara criticized Mugabe for his handling of elections in March. He also accused the government of intimidation and questioned its right to stay in office.

“They’ve arrested Mutambara at his house this morning,” said his lawyer Harrison Nkomo. “They are charging him with publishing statements prejudicial to the state and for contempt of court.”

Results from the March 29 election showed the ruling ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority and gave Tsvangirai the lead over Mugabe in a presidential vote. But neither won a majority, forcing a run-off on June 27.

Matinenga was elected as member of parliament for Buhera West on March 29 and is the fifth MDC legislator to be arrested ahead of the presidential run-off.

“The whole campaign is to render the MDC comatose but it is not going to work. This run-off is between the people and a dictatorship represented by Mugabe,” Chamisa said, adding that Matinenga was due to appear in court on Monday.

Police arrested The Standard editor Davison Maruziva on May 8 for publishing Mutambara’s article.

The Standard has been highly critical of Mugabe and of the political stalemate and violence that have followed the election.

Several journalists have been arrested and then released since the election in what analysts see as a government crackdown on independent media.

The MDC split in two in 2005 following a bitter quarrel over political strategy and internal democracy. The two factions recently put aside their differences and have agreed to work together again.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by Phumza Macanda; Editing by Giles Elgood

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