Zanzibar Presidential Candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad has been arrested with media reporting three people killed by police in confrontations overnight.
The whereabouts of Seif Sharif Hamad remains unclear after he was reportedly arrested on Tuesday morning in Garagara, the island of Pemba.
Mr Hamad was expected to take part in the early voting at the Garagara polling station. The general election is slated for Wednesday on the Tanzanian mainland and the semi-autonomous Zanzibar island.
But Zanzibar Electoral Commission had designated Tuesday as a special day for early voting for security forces and election clerks. The opposition, which has been against early voting over concerns that it is a ploy to rig the election, called on its supporters to also vote on the same day.
According to AFP, violence erupted in Garagara, an opposition stronghold, where police fired teargas and live rounds, and brutally beat a young man.
“Verified reports from Pemba in Zanzibar indicate that three citizens have been shot dead by the police using live ammunition,” according to a statement by ACT-Wazalendo.
Police are yet to comment on the whereabouts of Mr Hamad. Mr Hamad, 77, faces the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate for Zanzibar Hussein Mwinyi.
Dr Mwinyi, 53, is the Minister for Defence and National Security of Tanzania and the son of Tanzania’s second President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
In a statement on Tuesday, Hamad’s ACT Wazalendo party stated that the opposition politician was taken to Ziwani Police Headquarters in Zanzibar. “Seif Sharif Hamad was apprehended at the Mtoni Garagara polling station where he went to vote as advance voting commenced this morning,” the statement reads.
The official polling day is Wednesday, October 28, however, Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) allowed early voting for security and ZEC personnel, a move that the opposition is strongly against.
Hamad’s arrest follows a night of violence that left three people dead and many injured. He is among leaders who have condemned the violence.
“He had committed to the Zanzibar people that he would vote on today’s disputed advance voting day to lead efforts to pre-empt the rigging planned by the ruling establishment with the active connivance of the security organs,” the party said.
A heavily armed contingent of anti-riot police on Tuesday morning blocked the campaign entourage of Tanzania’s opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu from proceeding to campaign
The party called on the government to free Hamad and create a conducive environment for the voting exercise.
“We call upon the relevant regional and international bodies to prevail upon the Union and Zanzibar governments to immediately stop the violent and oppressive behaviour of the security organs and create an environment conducive for the peaceful exercise of voting,” the party added.
In the election, Hamad, who is attempting for the sixth time to be President, is contesting against Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi, son of former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
President Ali Mohamed Shein of CCM is stepping down after serving two terms in office. The semi-autonomous Zanzibar has been governed by the CCM since it joined with then-Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964.