Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into the attack on a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) rally which left one dead and 22 others hospitalised.
The rights watchdog blamed speeches by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime officials for “inciting such ferocious violence.”
The embassies of the United States, Britain and Sweden also called for a swift investigation and the prosecution of the perpetrators. Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said:
This assault bears all the hallmarks of a pre-meditated attack that aims to intimidate political opposition and block access to their constituents ahead of the upcoming by-elections in March.
The government’s rhetoric has done much to incite such ferocious violence and unfortunately little to ensure the free exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and association.
Mwananyanda urged Zimbabwe’s government to “ensure an impartial, independent and transparent investigation into this attack… The perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
Campaigning in Kwekwe on Saturday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga compared the CCC to “lice” and said it must be “crushed”.
Melanie Robinson, Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, said she was “concerned by reports of violent attacks on opposition supporters at a rally.”
Robinson said it was “vital that perpetrators are brought to justice and that all parties can campaign freely without fear of violence.”
The United States embassy called for broad support to end political violence adding, “There is no room for political violence in a democracy.”
Mboneni Ncube, a 35-year-old father of one, died at the rally after being stabbed with a sharp object.
Åsa Pehrson, the Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe said it was “key that perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Police reported the arrest of 16 people, most of them carrying ZANU PF party cards, over the violence. When the suspects were arrested hiding in a local bar, police recovered machetes, knives, catapults, and whips in their vehicles.
This comes just weeks before by-elections scheduled for March 26.