Zimbabwe opposition members in court over factional clash

Bulawayo - The deputy mayor of Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo was among 12 people who faced disorder charges in court on Wednesday over weekend clashes between rival factions of the country's main opposition party.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been paralysed by disagreements over who should have succeeded its long-serving former leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died of cancer on February 14.

Deputy mayor Gift Banda, councillor Mlandu Ncube and 10 other MDC supporters appeared in court following the violence on Sunday which left several people injured.

Banda was freed on bail of $200 while the rest were released after posting sureties of $50 and will all appear in court to answer charges of public disorder at a later date.

"Some of them were actually victims of violence who went to report that they had been attacked and were called back by the police and arrested. One person is battling for his life in a city hospital," said defence lawyer Dumisani Dube who confirmed the charges.

"We deplore the violence that is going on ahead of the elections and we urge the police to investigate without being partial."

Prosecutors allege that the 12 MDC activists stormed a meeting organised by one of Tsvangirai's former deputies, Thokozani Khupe, who is embroiled in a bitter stand-off with the party's new leader Nelson Chamisa.

Images from the incident show several people being attacked with sticks and stones.

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The violence, which lasted nearly two hours, ended when riot police intervened with water cannon and teargas.

Several people are understood to have been injured in the clashes.

The violence followed an earlier incident in which Khupe and several allies had to be rescued by police from angry protesters threatening to attack them during Tsvangirai's burial last month.

Feuding over Tsvangirai's successor is threatening to split the MDC ahead of elections expected in July in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced veteran ruler Robert Mugabe in November, has vowed to secure a landslide victory.

Tsvangirai's three former deputies Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri and Khupe all claim to be the former leader's rightful successor.

But Chamisa was chosen by the party's national council to be the MDC's leader and candidate for the presidential polls.

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