Police today questioned Joshua Nkomo about his criticism of the Zimbabwean government, but the opposition leader lashed out with a sharp attack on the country's top intelligence officials.
Nkomo, who was arrested for eight hours Saturday and prevented from leaving the country, was questioned for two hours today by officials of the Central Intelligence Organization in the escalating confrontation between Nkomo and the government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
The leader of the minority Ndebele tribe told reporters that police said some of his confiscated notes may be "subversive." He also said he was questioned about possible violations of currency laws.
The tense political mood in this southwestern city, which is the heartland of Nkomo's political support in Matabeleland, was evident as several hundred of his backers silently waited outside the office where he was questioned. He was greeted by cheers and shrill whistles, which was used as a sign of opposition to the former white-minority government.
When Mugabe was elected three years ago as leader of the newly independent Zimbabwe, the country was regarded as a potential model of multiracial democracy. Those hopes have declined, however, amid tribally based clashes between Mugabe's and Nkomo's followers, linked to plans by the prime minister to form a one-party state.
Last month Nkomo accused government troops of killing almost 100 civilians in a rampage of murder, rape and looting as soldiers tried to stamp out dissidents. Since then estimates of the death toll have ranged much higher, but the government has given little information.
Nkomo denied allegations by Emerson Munangagwa, minister of state for security, that he had attempted to leave the country incognito, had secretly planned to go to South Africa and not to a conference in Czechoslovakia and had not informed the government of his travel plans.
Nkomo called the charges lies. Chuckling, the portly Nkomo said, "Poor little Munangagwa can manage to travel incognito but not me since this vast figure is well-known around the world."
He added, Munangagwa "forgets that I'm not a twit like himself."
He showed reporters photocopies of his excursion ticket to Prague via Johannesburg, Zurich and London and also presented his luggage with the baggage tags marked with the route as far as London.
He also said he had unsuccessfully sought meetings with Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Simon Muzenda to inform them of his travel plans and to discuss the violence.
Nkomo was obviously reveling in the attention from foreign correspondents for the first time since Mugabe fired him from the Cabinet a year ago and charged his former guerrilla ally with plotting a coup.
Police have kept Nkomo's passport, and for the time being he cannot travel abroad.
Nkomo said police were investigating the presence of 300 Zimbabwean dollars (about U.S. $330) in his briefcase since passengers are allowed to carry out only $20. He said he intended to give the money to his wife but forgot.