Harare, Zimbabwe – The new mayor of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare has been arrested for alleged corruption, his lawyer said Thursday, as the top opposition figure’s party slammed the case as politically motivated.
Jacob Mafume – a prominent member of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance – is accused of corruptly parcelling out residential plots of land, including to his sister, when he was a city councillor in 2010.
He was arrested late on Wednesday and is set to remain in custody until a first court appearance expected on Friday, Mafume’s lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara said.
Mafume “is facing criminal abuse of office charges relating to the allocation of stands,” Bhatasara told AFP.
“The police are yet to establish some facts and issues relating to the matter.”
Mafume’s MDC party said the arrest was a “flimsy political case” and that the charges against him were “unclear”.
“His real offence was winning the mayoral vote,” the MDC tweeted hours after the arrest.
Mafume was elected in September.
“They want to remove him & replace him with a ZANU-PF proxy,” the MDC tweeted, referring to the ruling party.
Harare has been governed by opposition figures for more than a decade.
ZANU-PF often accuses MDC-led councils of corruption and incompetence.
In 2004, the government suspended the first opposition mayor Elias Mudzuri and replaced his council with a commission appointed by a local ZANU-PF minister.
Mafume’s predecessor Herbert Gomba was arrested for alleged land scams in July and was also charged with criminal abuse of office.
Gomba was released on bail in August and barred from resuming his mayoral functions.