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Despite Talks, Zimbabwe Opposition Says Political Prisoners Still Held

  • Chris Gande
  • Jonga Kandemiiri

Officials of Zimbabwe's opposition party say that even as power-sharing talks with the ruling party get under way, more than 2,000 members of the Movement for Democratic Change remain behind bars on charges related to post-election political violence.

The release of what MDC officials describe as political prisoners was one of the conditions set by the opposition for signing a memorandum of agreement on power-sharing negotiations this week. Opposition sources say intimidation also continues nationwide.

Policy and Research Secretary Sekai Holland of the MDC formation headed by Morgan Tsvangirai says she went into hiding recently after realizing that she was under surveillance. She said a new state operation to arrest opposition members has been launched, code-named, "Who Sent You?"

Meanwhile, some rural residents who fled political violence in recent months are trickling back to their homes in Mashonaland East and other parts of the country, but sources said they are receiving a mixed greeting on their return from neighbors, village headmen and chiefs.

Some have been welcomed back, but headmen and chiefs loyal to the ruling ZANU-PF party are imposing fines before allowing them to resettle.

The less fortunate face kangaroo courts which are presided over by war veterans loyal to the government of President Robert Mugabe, and beaten up for their supposed offense of supporting the opposition, before then being allowed to return to their homes.

However, sources in Wedza, Mashonaland East, said Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga denounced political violence in an address to mourners at a funeral in his rural Wedza South constituency recently. Many observers including Human Rights Watch have accused the army of supporting the political violence that followed March 29 elections and which mainly targeted Movement for Democratic Change members.

Piniel Denga, Mashonaland East provincial information secretary for the Tsvangirai MDC formation, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that areas like Mudzi and Murehwa South remain too dangerous for opposition members to return.

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

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