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In Zimbabwe Police arrest another war veterans' leader

Police in anti-riot gear stood guard at the court entrance while war veterans sang songs protesting against Mahiya and Matemadanda's arrest.

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Zimbabwe police arrest another war veterans' leader play

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 92, who has ruled since 1980, has faced a groundswell of opposition in recent months 

(AFP/File Jekesai Njikizana)

Zimbabwean police on Monday arrested another senior member of the war veterans' association in a growing crackdown on critics of President Robert Mugabe after a series of rare protests.

Mugabe, 92, who has ruled since 1980, has faced a groundswell of opposition in recent months as the country's moribund economy collapses and the government struggles to pay its workforce.

The war veterans, previously loyal supporters of the president, released a highly critical statement two weeks ago attacking Mugabe as "dictatorial" and accusing him of being unable to address Zimbabwe's problems.

A new non-partisan opposition movement known as #ThisFlag has also galvanised anti-government sentiment in Zimbabwe, where security forces have crushed signs of dissent for decades. 

Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), was taken away by police at a court hearing of a colleague facing charges of insulting Mugabe.

An AFP correspondent saw detectives take Matemadanda from a group of independence war veterans, who had gathered outside the court for the bail hearing of association spokesman Douglas Mahiya.

Matemadanda was put in the back seat of a truck flanked by detectives, and driven off.

"When we find out who the people were... the punishment will be severe," Mugabe said last week, referring to unsigned authors of the war veterans' statement.

The police spokeswoman was not available to comment on any charges against Matemadanda.

Scores of sympathisers and rights activists attended Mahiya's court hearing in Harare on Monday, including former vice president Joice Mujuru, now the leader of a new opposition party.

Police in anti-riot gear stood guard at the court entrance while war veterans sang songs protesting against Mahiya and Matemadanda's arrest.

Mahiya was granted $300 bail and released.

Last month, a one-day strike shut down offices, shops, schools and some government departments as people protested over an economic crisis that has delayed salaries for civil servants and the military.

More than 90 percent of the population is not in formal employment after years of economic decline under Mugabe's rule.

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