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Supporters of Zimbabwe President Mugabe Block Appearance by US Ambassador


US Embassy officials said the Kwekwe Theater meeting had been cleared by police who, however, did nothing to keep the public gathering from being disrupted by rowdy and abusive ZANU-PF youths

Alleged militants of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party broke up a youth meeting in the Midlands province town of Kwekwe on Wednesday, preventing the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, from speaking, sources said Thursday.

US Embassy officials said the Kwekwe Theater meeting had been cleared by police who, however, did nothing to keep the public gathering from being disrupted by rowdy and abusive ZANU-PF youths singing revolutionary songs and jeering.

Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police, told VOA that he did not have any information on the incident.

Sources said police in addition to standing by while the meeting was disrupted, harassed a Newsday reporter, Blessed Mhlanga, who was trying to cover the event.

ZANU-PF's youth secretary for Midlands province, Owen Ncube, was alleged to have led the disruption of the meeting. Ncube is said to be close to Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former ruling party's secretary for legal affairs.

Eyewitness Searchmore Muringani, representative of the Youth Agenda in Kwekwe, said the situation in the theater was tense when the ZANU-PF youth burst in.

US Embassy spokesman Andrew Posner condemned the intrusion and the inaction by police, but said this will not deter Ambassador Ray from reaching out to Zimbabweans.

"It is regrettable that elements of the security sector and some political parties remain afraid of allowing a free exchange of ideas and have yet again shown themselves intent on barring members of the public from engaging in genuine dialogue." said Posner.

He added Washington is willing to engage Harare, civil society and youth.

Relations between the ZANU-PF side of the Harare unity government and Washington have remained chilly despite the 2009 launch of power sharing in Zimbabwe.

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