Tsvangirai's danger alarm

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday met acting President Joice Mujuru over the crackdown on his office by police amid fears that the onslaught could threaten the credibility of the upcoming polls.

Tsvangirai said Zanu PF is in a state of panic ahead of crunch elections seen as the  toughest since independence in 1980.

He said regional leaders in Sadc “the curators and guarantors” of the coalition government should be proactive as the country hurtles towards watershed polls to be held within the next four months.

“This morning, I met with the acting President, Amai Mujuru, to update her on this needless swoop on my Office,” said Tsvangirai.

“The acting President assured me she would meet with the commissioner-general of police (Augustine Chihuri). The targeting of my office is reprehensible and is meant to harass and intimidate the nation ahead of the election, now that we are done with the referendum,” he said.

The MDC leader, who is in an uneasy power-sharing government with his long-standing political rival President Robert Mugabe, said the renewed crackdown on his office as well as the detention of human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa presents a recession reminiscent of the dark days before the unity government was formed four years ago.

Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday after she confronted about 15 police officers who were ransacking offices of her client, Thabani Mpofu, a top aide of Tsvangirai.

She is being charged with obstructing the course of justice under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Police also picked up Warship Dumba, a former Harare city councillor and PM office staffers Felix Matsinde and Annah Muzvidziwa.

Despite a High Court order for police to release Mtetwa police have been defiant.

Lawyers representing Mtetwa and the officials from the PM’s office spent the better part of yesterday trying to secure the release of their clients.

Now the former trade unionist is hoping that Mujuru will use her powers as acting president to convince Chihuri to rein in his police officers.

Zimbabweans voted in referendum on Saturday last week — a milestone towards polls which could end the unity government formed at the behest of Sadc in 2008 after an inconclusive poll.

But Tsvangirai, who spent the better part of yesterday in a series of meetings over the crackdown, said “these are trying times for my office”.

Of particular concern to the former trade unionist is the contempt in which his office is regarded by the police.

“To date, we remain unclear as to the motive and agenda of this blitz on the Prime Minister’s Office through this arrest of our staff members.

“Our officers are still to be charged and our police force should investigate to arrest and not arrest to investigate,” he said. “We cannot tolerate this unwarranted arrest of innocent staff of an executive office by the police, who then fail to charge them.”

A looming winner-take-all poll has upped the stakes in a coalition government as bitter rivals Zanu PF and the MDC will yet again lock horns in the next few months.

Tsvangirai says the targeting of his office is by design and “meant to harass and intimidate the nation ahead of the election, now that we are done with the referendum”.

Apart from piling up pressure on Mujuru, the MDC leader is hopeful that Sadc — guarantors of the unity government — will be able “to ensure that we implement all the reforms that we agreed four years ago, particularly security sector and media reforms”.

Tsvangirai, who met with the Sadc Referendum observer team on Sunday night, said he impressed upon the regional body to call for an urgent Sadc summit to check on compliance and implementation of agreed issues and to set the ground rules for a peaceful and civilised electoral contest.

Reports indicated yesterday that officials from the Prime Minister’s office were being charged with possession of articles, breaches of the Official Secrets Act and impersonating police officers.

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