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Prominent Harare Government Critic Vows To Press On Despite Home Arson Attempt

A leading member of Zimbabwe's civil society opposition to President Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF government has vowed to press ahead with his democratic activism despite an attempt early Sunday to set his Harare home on fire.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the incident was an attempt on his life and has blamed the Central Intelligence Organization.

Madhuku said in an interview that both entrances to his home in the Waterfalls section of Harare were doused with petrol and set afire, as were its windows. But he escaped injury with his wife, three children and five relatives by escaping through a window that had cracked open due to the fierce heat. Madhuku said the attackers also sprinkled petrol outside his garage, hoping his cars would catch fire and explode.

Police Chief Inspector Andrew Phiri told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that an investigation had been opened into “malicious injury to property where an unknown assailant scaled a wall and set some substance on fire" by Madhuku's bedroom.

Political observers said the attack evoked memories of the deaths in 2000 of activists Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika of the Movement for Democratic Change, who were killed when assailants fire-bombed their car. CIO operative Joseph Mwale and war veteran Tom Kainos Zimunya were implicated in that attack, but police have ignored orders from the high court and attorney general to arrest them.

Former high court Judge James Devittie recommended in 2001 that Mwale be tried for the murder of Chiminya and Mabika, noting that there was a strong possibility that the secret police agent could be convicted of the crime. The judge described the killings as a “wicked act.” Sources in the office of the attorney general said senior police officials have been frustrating efforts to bring Mwale to justice.

Madhuku told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the attack on his home has not shaken his resolve to challenge the government and demand a redrafting of the country's constitution as the basis for democratic reform.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...