Oct 19, 2017 Last Updated 2:13 PM, Oct 19, 2017
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A Zimbabwean activist has been arrested after calling 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe "a dead man walking", lawyers said on Wednesday, in the latest case of authorities cracking down on dissent.

Sten Zvorwadza, the leader of a street vendor's union, was charged with insulting or undermining the president in a press interview where he was also quoted as saying that Mugabe was "old" and "day-dreaming".

Zvorwadza is a prominent anti-Mugabe campaigner who has led several demonstrations calling on the veteran leader to step down.

Zimbabwe's worsening economy has seen many people resorting to informal street vending due to massive unemployment.

Zvorwadza is yet to appear in court, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) group said.

Authorities have often arrested critics of Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980.

In March, two journalists were arrested over a report that the president, who travels abroad for regular medical treatment, was "in bad shape".

A pastor was also detained after prophesying that Mugabe would die on October 17 this year.

Last week police arrested a journalist who reported that Mugabe's wife Grace had donated second-hand underwear to supporters.

Despite his advanced age and weakening health, Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has endorsed him as its candidate for the 2018 general elections.

Zimbabwe's Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has publicly reprimanded the country's other Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of trying to "destabilise" the country.

It follows Mr Mnangagwa's claim that he was poisoned.

The governing Zanu-PF has been battling to contain tensions within the party between rival groups wanting to succeed President Robert Mugabe, 93.

Mr Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe are seen as the frontrunners.

In a press statement, Mr Mphoko accused his counterpart of lying about being poisoned in August.

Mr Mphoki is currently the acting president as Mr Mugabe is out of the country.

Mr Mnangagwa fell ill in August at a political rally led by President Mugabe and had to be airlifted to South Africa.

Over the weekend, Mr Mnangagwa said someone had tried to poison his food. His supporters suggested a rival group within Zanu-PF was responsible and appeared to blame ice cream from Mrs Mugabe's dairy firm.

Vice-President Mphoko says doctors had confirmed to the president that stale food and not poison was to blame.

He said the latest claims show an agenda to "undermine the authority" of the president and fuel tensions within the party.

A Zimbabwean journalist has been detained over a story alleging that used underwear had been distributed to ruling Zanu-PF supporters on First Lady Grace Mugabe's behalf, his lawyers say.

NewsDay reporter Kenneth Nyangani was likely to face "criminal defamation" charges, the lawyers added.

Zanu-PF MP Esau Mupfumi distributed the underwear, and said Mrs Mugabe had donated it, the newspaper reported.

There has been no official comment on Mr Nyangani's arrest.

It was unclear clear whether the complainant was the MP or the first lady, NewsDay reported.

Police in the eastern city of Mutare detained Mr Nyangani on Monday evening for "allegedly writing and publishing a story over the donation of some used undergarments" by President Robert Mugabe's wife, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in a statement.

The privately-owned newspaper had earlier reported that Mr Mupfumi had handed out clothes at the weekend to Zanu-PF supporters in the Mutare area.

"I met the First Lady Grace Mugabe and I was given these clothes so that I can give you. I have briefs for you and I am told that most of your briefs are not in good shape, please come and collect your allocations today," Mr Mupfumi was quoted as saying.

"We have night dresses, sandals and clothes, come and take, this is from your First Lady Grace Mugabe," he added.

Worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe are forcing many people to buy second-hand clothing, the AFP news agency reports.

It says such items include used underwear from Western countries which is chiefly imported from Mozambique.

Mrs Mugabe, the president's second wife, attracted widespread media attention in August when she was accused of attacking a model at a hotel in South Africa where her sons were staying.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

 

President Jacob Zuma will host his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The pair will attend the second session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission.

Zuma and Mugabe will review the state of the bilateral relationship between the countries.

More than a hundred South African companies do business in Zimbabwe.

This is Mugabe’s first visit after his wife, Grace, was accused of assaulting a woman at a Johannesburg hotel in August.

She was subsequently granted diplomatic immunity against the charges.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday accused unnamed officials of his own party of trying to push him into retiring and likened them to the biblical betrayer Judas.

The 93-year-old Mugabe, one of the world's oldest leaders, has been in power since Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, gained independence from Britain in 1980. He intends to seek another five-year term at elections due next year.

In public, his party, ZANU-PF, has rallied behind its ageing leader. But in private its members are deeply divided over his continued leadership and who will eventually take over from him.

Mugabe, who has repeatedly said his party will choose his successor when the time comes, said he was going nowhere and accused some party officials of supporting him during the day while plotting against him behind his back.

"Others are like those that Jesus spoke about during his last supper, when he said 'some of you eating with me here shall betray me'. The Judas Iscariot. They are here among us," Mugabe said during the burial of a party member.

"They want to cause leadership change ... for the president to step down. I did not grab power. I was chosen by the people. It's the people's throne, so I don't want with it," he said to loud cheers from some party members.

ZANU-PF is divided into two factions. One backs Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to immediately succeed Mugabe. Another is rallying behind Mugabe's wife, Grace, and also want the ageing ruler to be president for life.

"When the day comes I will say thank you to my Zimbabwean family and I will step down so you can choose my successor. But for now I am the one in charge," Mugabe said.

The southern African nation is gripped by a shortage of foreign exchange that has forced some businesses to buy US dollars on the black market, a situation blamed for a recent spike in prices and shortages of some basic goods.

But Mugabe, without giving evidence, accused some people of manipulating the currency to "trigger inflation and cause panic buying."

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