Zimbabwean police on Friday arrested a senior aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on charges that remained unclear but apparently had to do with comments he had made critical of President Robert Mugabe's handling of a recent regional summit.
Minister of State Jameson Timba remained in police custody late Friday and his lawyer said he had not been able to confer with his client.
Hardliners in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party led by former information minister Jonathan Moyo had called recently for the prosecution of Timba and Mr. Tsvangirai for what they alleged were comments undermining the authority of the president made during a June 19 rally in Gweru, Midlands, of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
Mr. Tsvangirai and Timba challenged Mr. Mugabe’s claim that the Southern African Development Community in its recent Johannesburg summit had thrown out resolutions issued by its troika for politics during a March mini-summit in Livingstone, Zambia.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on Friday accused Timba of dispensing 3 million British pounds to journalists to undercut the president's prestige.
Timba dismissed the allegations before his arrest. The MDC issued a statement saying Timba was arrested in connection with an article published by the Standard newspaper quoting him as saying Mr. Mugabe lied about the results of the SADC summit.
Lawyer Selby Hwacha, representing Timba, said he does not know what charges would be brought against his client. He said he had not been allowed to see Timba since his arrest. Harare province police spokesman James Sabau declined to comment.
Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu, MDC spokesman for Harare province, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 that the arrest of Timba is of great concern. He said some hardliners in ZANU-PF want to undermine the Harare unity government.
The MDC meanwhile issued a statement charging that state agents Thursday abducted Tendai Chinyama, the MDC's Kambuzuma district organizing secretary at the Harare City Council’s Bishop Gaul Depot. The statement said Chinyama works at the depot.
The MDC statement said the three unidentified armed men who seized Chinyama were driving a cream-colored Mitsubishi L-200 twin-cab truck. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said he had no information about the alleged abduction.
The political environment in Harare has been tense with the MDC trading barbs lately with ZANU-PF which is backed by top military officers. Sources said the MDC has increased security around Mr. Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Bti, who has wrangled with President Mugabe over the issue of state worker salaries.
Both have come under fire recently from ZANU-PF hardliners and allies.
Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Peace Project in a monthly report on human rights violations said documented cases of political violence continued to run high especially in Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, and Masvingo provinces. The non-governmental organization expressed concern at military involvement.
The Masvingo province branch of the Tsvangirai MDC formation meanwhile has charged that soldiers are harassing party supporters there, Obert Pepukai reported.