A Zimbabwean legislator has been charged with treason after she invited her supporters to “dress in black” and join “a peaceful march” ahead of the violent January protests.
Ms Joana Mamombe, 25, the youngest MP in the current Zimbabwean parliament, was on Tuesday denied bail after she was arrested at the weekend for allegedly plotting to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The charges are connected to a press conference she addressed on the eve of the January 14 protests against a steep increase in fuel prices.
Ms Mambombe joined at least five civil society leaders, who were already awaiting trial for treason arising from the deadly protests, including prominent cleric Evan Mawarire.
The same charges
Another opposition MP, Mr Charlton Hwende, was arrested at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport and was likely to face the same charges.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC A) led by Mr Nelson Chamisa, described Ms Mamombe’s detention as illegal.
“That a magistrate can agree that the words “invitation to a peaceful march” and “dress in black” constitute reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime, boggles the mind,” the party said in a statement on Tuesday after Ms Mamombe was remanded in custody for two weeks.
“The arrest of Honourable Mamombe was clearly in violation of her rights and is illegal, there is no basis to formulate an opinion that she intended to subvert a constitutionally elected government,” the MDC A added.
“Placing her on remand is shocking.”
President Mnangagwa last month accused NGOs and the opposition of plotting to overthrow his government during the January protests.
He also revealed that he deployed soldiers to quell the unrest and the MDC A says 17 people were killed by the army and several women were raped during the clampdown.
After taking over from long time ruler Robert Mugabe following a military coup in November 2017, President Mnangagwa promised ‘a new kind of democracy.’
However, his critics argue that his style of leadership was not different from that of Mr Mugabe who did not tolerate dissent and routinely charged opponents with treason.