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Zimbabwe Opposition Calls For Special African Union Summit On Crisis

  • Thomas Chiripasi

The faction of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai urged African leaders Wednesday to take action on the Zimbabwe crisis, citing “decay” in the political and economic environment.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporters at a news conference in Harare that state violence and abductions by suspected state agents continue unabated despite mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki sanctioned by the Southern African Development Community

The opposition official issued a statement saying it was "imperative that African leaders, in particular the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, take note of the current crisis in our country."

He urged African leaders to call an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe, which he said is long overdue, to condemn violence against opposition members.

Biti also called on Mr. Mbeki to condemn the violence. "We ask the facilitator of the SADC dialogue, President Mbeki, to realize that no dialogue can take place in an environment full of fascism and violence perpetrated by the state," he said.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported that Biti said 150 opposition supporters have fled their homes in Manicaland Province.

Elsewhere, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and other senior officials ordered magistrates and high court judges not to grant bail to 32 opposition officials and activists detained since late March, saying the country is now at war.

Mohadi and other officials equated the recent spate of firebombings of police posts and other targets to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

They said they need time to investigate the opposition members who are accused of carrying out the bombings. Mohadi filed more“ministerial certificates” on Wednesday in the courts to cover all bail cases before magistrates and the high court.

Opposition officials have dismissed the charges against activists as trumped up and part of the crackdown on dissent, which they said Harare has mounted in the approach to the presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008.

Some opposition officials say the bombings were carried out by state security forces to justify the crackdown which followed the shooting of an MDC activist, Gift Tandare, at an abortive Harare prayer meeting on March 11, and included the March 28 police raid on the Harare headquarters of the Tsvangirai opposition faction.

Some 32 MDC officials and activists including Glen View parliamentarian Paul Madzore have been held in detention since that raid.

The opposition claims have been bolstered by the arrest of three Central Investigation detectives who said the bombings were the work of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Attorney Alec Muchadehama, representing the detained MDC activists, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ministerial certificates filed by Mohadi scuttled bail hearings for the detained activists on Wednesday.

The magistrate court meanwhile dismissed a double-barreled application by Muchadehama and fellow counsel Andrew Makoni, both arrested on Friday and charged with obstructing justice, then freed Monday on Z$500,000 bail.

Advocate Eric Matinenga, representing them, said a magistrate erred Monday in remanding them at liberty as the high court had ruled they should be released - in effect instructing the lower court to dismiss the charges.

He said police exceeded their authority in arresting the two lawyers based on statements in bail applications they filed in high court. But Magistrate Robson Finsin dismissed the application and remanded the two lawyers to June 15.

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