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Zimbabwe union leader surrenders to police after protests



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The leader of Zimbabwe’s main labour federation turned himself in to the police on Friday as another activist sought bail following violence during last week’s anti-government protests, lawyers said Friday.

The president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Peter Mutasa, “has presented himself to Harare Central Police Station accompanied by his lawyer”, a grouping of human rights lawyers said in a tweet.

It was not immediately clear whether he had been arrested, but his colleague, the ZCTU unions Secretary-General Japhet Moyo was arrested on Monday as he flew into the country on charges of trying to subvert the government and inciting violence.

Mutasa appeared earlier this month on a video clip posted on social media, with cleric and activist Evan Mawarire.

They called jointly for a national job boycott to protest against a steep fuel price increase and the general economic meltdown.

Mawarire was arrested last week on subversion charges and earlier on Friday he sought bail in the High Court.

The prosecution opposed his bail application on the grounds that he was likely to abscond.

“If convicted he’s likely to stand a long term of imprisonment and that is enough inducement for him to flee,” prosecutor Mirirai Shumba told the High Court in Harare.

Mawarire is accused of subverting a constitutionally elected government and incitement to commit violence by posting videos on social media supporting a national strike called by trade unions.

His lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara argued that “there is no propensity or likelihood” of Mawarire fleeing.

A ruling on the bail application will be handed down on Tuesday.

Mawarire, a pastor, became a prominent voice during protests in 2016 when he posted videos on social media criticising the government while wearing a Zimbabwean flag around his neck.

His posts inspired the #ThisFlag movement that led mass protests against Mugabe, who was ousted after a military takeover.

Nationwide demonstrations erupted last week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

Furious demonstrators took to the streets in several cities and towns with widespread rioting and looting.

Soldiers and police put down the protests and at least 12 people died. More than 1,100 were arrested, including opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers and senior figures.

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, on Friday called on Zimbabwe authorities to “immediately halt their menacing threats towards civil society leaders, activists, opposition leaders and suspected organisers of protests”.

Amnesty International urged the government to “act swiftly to ensure security forces are held to account for ongoing brutal human rights violations, including torture, rape, beatings and killings of civilians”.

There have been widespread reports of severe brutality against civilians during the crackdown. The country’s government-appointed human rights commission alleged “systematic torture”.

“The authorities must ensure that those who violated and continue to violate human rights face justice,” Muchena said.