A senior official with Zimbabwe’s war veterans association appeared in court on Friday on charges of undermining President Robert Mugabe, after the group accused him of “dictatorial” behaviour.
Douglas Mahiya, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), was remanded in custody until a bail hearing on Saturday.
“The accused is facing charges of undermining or insulting the president,” prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema told the court. “The state is opposed to the granting of bail.”
Kasema said that as the war veterans’ spokesman, Mahiya was responsible for distributing a hard-hitting statement last week that was highly critical of the 92-year-old Mugabe.
In the statement, veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war, who had previously been loyal Mugabe supporters, bitterly denounced the president, who faces growing signs of opposition.
They vowed not to support Mugabe, in power since 1980, if he stands for re-election.
After the court hearing a handful of veterans who had attended the session sang songs in support of Mahiya who is in custody at Harare police station.
Police arrested Mahiya hours after Mugabe told party supporters that authorities were investigating the origin of the war veterans’ statement warning the authors would face “severe” punishment.
The prosecutor also claimed that Mahiya also denigrated Mugabe in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
The association’s secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, was also taken from his rural home after being summoned for questioning.
Zimbabwe has recently seen demonstrations against Mugabe’s government, prompted by anger over an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and a high jobless rate.
Earlier this month, a one-day strike shut down offices, shops, schools and government departments as people protested over the economic crisis.