HARARE,— Zimbabwe’s opposition leader warned Wednesday that the country is “heading into a dangerous direction” as his party mourned an official abducted while campaigning for upcoming elections and later found dead.
Tapfumaneyi Masaya, 51, was part of a team of Citizens for Change Coalition activists campaigning Saturday in Harare’s Mabvuku township when he was seized by unidentified people and bundled into a vehicle, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is giving legal representation to his family.
Masaya’s body was dumped near a park on the outskirts of the capital and taken to a morgue where it was identified by his family and fellow party activists Monday. Police confirmed the body had been identified.
“The callous politically motivated abduction and murder of Tapfumanei Masaya is a tragic and ugly turn of politics in Zimbabwe,” Nelson Chamisa posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The opposition has accused the ruling ZANU-PF party and security agencies of leading the harassment of its activists and Masaya’s death.
A ruling party spokesman, Farai Marapira, accused the opposition of “seeking political mileage from an unfortunate death,” denying his party’s involvement. Police said they are investigating the abduction and killing.
There has been growing international condemnation of deteriorating human rights in Zimbabwe.
The U.S. Embassy said on X it was “alarmed” by Masaya’s case and called for a full investigation.
Amnesty International in a statement called on authorities to “immediately address the escalating cases of abductions, arbitrary detention, torture and killing of parliament members, opposition political activists and human rights defenders.”
Supporters and relatives gathered at Masaya’s home Wednesday to mourn a man they described as peaceful. They sang political songs, beat drums, danced and vowed to fight on despite intimidation.
The killing comes two weeks after an opposition lawmaker, Takudzwa Ngadziore, claimed he was abducted on his way to parliament and tortured before being dumped naked outside Harare.
Several cases have also been reported in recent months following disputed elections marked by arrests, intimidation and violence in August, won by President Emerson Mnangagwa and his ZANU-PF.
Zimbabwe faces by-elections in several constituencies on Dec. 9 after a man claiming to be the secretary-general of the Citizens for Change Coalition sent a letter to parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda saying opposition lawmakers in nine constituencies were being withdrawn.
The opposition accused the ruling party of working with the man it described as an impostor.
Over a dozen more opposition lawmakers were fired Tuesday on the instructions of the man, again requiring fresh elections on a date yet to be announced.
Although ZANU-PF retained its control of parliament, it did not get a two-thirds majority that would give it the votes to change the constitution and possibly allow Mnangagwa, 81, to remain as leader beyond the two-term limit.
Mnangagwa has said this is his last term, though some in his party have called for him to stay on.