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Zimbabwe: 1 dead after clashes at opposition party rally

February 28, 2022 GMT
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses a rally in Harare, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Chamisa drew thousands of people at his first political rally since forming a new party weeks ago, as the country gears for elections that had been postponed due to COVID-19.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses a rally in Harare, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Chamisa drew thousands of people at his first political rally since forming a new party weeks ago, as the country gears for elections that had been postponed due to COVID-19.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses a rally in Harare, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Chamisa drew thousands of people at his first political rally since forming a new party weeks ago, as the country gears for elections that had been postponed due to COVID-19.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses a rally in Harare, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Chamisa drew thousands of people at his first political rally since forming a new party weeks ago, as the country gears for elections that had been postponed due to COVID-19.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa addresses a rally in Harare, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. Chamisa drew thousands of people at his first political rally since forming a new party weeks ago, as the country gears for elections that had been postponed due to COVID-19.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — One person died and others were injured in clashes at an opposition party rally in Zimbabwe over the weekend, police said Monday. The country’s main opposition leader claimed his followers were attacked by ruling party supporters armed with machetes, spears and rocks.

Police spokesman Paul Nyathi confirmed the death and said 16 people were arrested in connection with the violence at opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s rally on Sunday in the city of Kwekwe. Police are investigating.

Chamisa told reporters Monday that people who “wanted bloodshed” attacked the rally and blamed the ruling ZANU-PF party for the attacks. A government spokesman denied that.

Opposition party members in Zimbabwe have for years been the subject of attacks and harassment by ruling party supporters and security forces. Hundreds of people defied police firing teargas and using water cannons to cheer Chamisa at another rally on Saturday.

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The unrest comes ahead of a March 26 election to fill more than 130 vacant parliament and local council seats. The politically volatile southern African nation is due to hold a general election next year.

Chamisa lost a disputed presidential election in 2018 to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Chamisa, a 44-year-old lawyer and pastor, held his first rally earlier this month after forming a new party. He broke away from the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition party, last month.

Mnangagwa took over as leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party and as president after a military uprising forced Robert Mugabe from power in 2017.

Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe for 37 years, was also accused of overseeing a regime that clamped down on any opposition. He died in 2019.