The Zimbabwean government has put police and soldiers on high alert, charging that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Morgan Tsvangirai is seeking to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, sources said Tuesday.
But senior officials of Tsvangirai's MDC formation quickly dismissed the allegation as a pretext on which crack down harshly on the opposition at a time when Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe are at loggerheads over the terms for forming a government of national unity.
Brigadier General John Zingoni warned the army late last month to remain on high alert citing the alleged shooting and wounding of Air Marshall Perence Shiri in December. Some observers have cast doubt on the veracity of official reports of such an attack.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told Bloomberg News on Monday that the opposition is recruiting youths to train and deploy as bandits to destabilize the country and topple the government.
But senior police sources told VOA that that the Joint Operations Command comprising senior army and police officials hatched the initiative to crack down on voices of dissent as the political and economic crisis in the country deepens.
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that such matters are not discussed with the press.
Security and Intelligence Secretary Giles Mutsekwa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation says heavily armed members of the police and army were patrolling the streets of Mutare, the capital of eastern Manicaland province.
National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the country is in an undeclared state of emergency meant to intimidate a restive population.
The Tsvangirai MDC formation meanwhile said it was still trying to locate 11 activists abducted in the past several months who remain missing, and is appealing to the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to pressure President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF government to release those abductees.
Other abducted MDC activists - and Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko - have reappeared in police hands and been charged with plotting to overturn the government.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party wants the U.N. and other international bodies to take a larger role in dealing with the country's political and humanitarian crises.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...