20 MDC Alliance supporters appear in court; party says many in hiding as soldiers on the prawl

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By Associated Press

HARARE: Soldiers were searching parts of the capital for opposition supporters to detain after the disputed election, the country’s main opposition party said Saturday, as some already were in court.

Nkululeko Sibanda, a top official in the Movement for Democratic Change party, spoke at a courthouse in Harare where about 20 detained supporters awaited a hearing. Sibanda said they were accused of inciting public violence.

“A lot of people are hiding,” Sibanda said. “It’s scarier than the Mugabe times.”

There was no independent confirmation of the allegation. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said he wants to work with the opposition to rebuild the country after decades of repression under his former mentor, Robert Mugabe.

Sibanda said he was concerned that the government could try to implicate opposition supporters in the deaths of six people who were killed during a military crackdown in Harare on Wednesday. Soldiers opened fire on protesters, some of whom were rioting.

As riot police circulated in the capital on Saturday, supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa urged him to keep fighting a day after he forcefully rejected Mnangagwa’s election victory and alleged manipulation. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has said the president won with 50.8 percent of the vote while Chamisa received 44.3 percent.

Chamisa has said the opposition’s own count shows he won the vote and that they would challenge the election results in court. “We’re doing all to secure your vote & defend your WILL,” he said Saturday on Twitter.

“What we want Mr. Nelson Chamisa to do for us is to not give up on our vote,” said one supporter in the capital, Tisi Habis. “No matter what the (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) says, Mr. Chamisa is our president.”

International election observers who were invited by Mnangagwa’s government after years of being banned by Mugabe were pulling out after issuing mixed reports on Monday’s vote.

While the election itself was called peaceful, the observers expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the voters’ roll and the “extreme bias” of state-run media in favor of Mnangagwa. And in a joint statement the observers criticized the military’s “excessive” use of force.

A credible election is a crucial step for lifting international sanctions and attracting badly needed foreign investment in Zimbabwe’s long-collapsed economy.

Mnangagwa on Friday claimed the vote had been free and fair, praising the “unprecedented flowering of freedom and democracy in our beloved homeland” while saying he wanted an independent investigation into the deadly unrest.

The U.S. State Department late Friday encouraged the release of fully transparent election results and said anyone with grievances should pursue them through legal channels, adding that “we encourage all political leaders to show magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat.”