A Zimbabwe opposition lawmaker was charged with subversion, his lawyer said, after a video surfaced where he purportedly said President Emmerson Mnangagwa would be overthrown before the 2023 election.
Mnangagwa (76) promised to break from the ways of his authoritarian predecessor Robert Mugabe with critics saying he continues to use tough security laws against opponents.
Several government opponents face trial on charges of subverting government after street protests over a fuel price hike turned deadly in January, leading to the death of more than a dozen people in a throwback to the Mugabe era.
In a video on social media from the weekend, Job Sikhala, deputy chairman of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a member of parliament, appears to tell supporters at a rally: “We are going to take the fight to the doorstep of Emmerson Mnangagwa, we are going to overthrow him before 2023, that is not a joke.”
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
Sikhala’s lawyer Obey Shava said the outspoken former student leader, who faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted, was detained at a Harare police station and would appear in court on Wednesday.
Without explicitly confirming the video, Shava told Reuters there was nothing in it to suggest a crime was committed. “He is denying the charge in its totality,” he said.
“We have been pushing police to go to court but their house is not yet in order. We thought they knew what they were doing, but it seems they are not confident about the case.”
The MDC continues to reject Mnangagwa’s presidential victory last year. Amid widespread economic hardship, the opposition routinely says it will use constitutional means to remove the president, without being specific.