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Opposition Officials Say Harare Turning Up Pressure Before Rural Balloting

Officials of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change say 24 members of the MDC faction led by party founding president Morgan Tsvangirai have been arrested in recent days in what looks like an official pressure campaign.

MDC sources said the latest arrest came Thursday morning when plainclothes police picked up Mutare North MDC Vice Secretary Monica Mukwanda at her home on charges that she had organized illegal demonstrations.

MDC Manicaland spokesman Pishayi Muchavuraya said Mukwanda's arrest came after police surveillance since Monday of homes of members of the provincial party's executive committed. Police and agents of the feared Central Intelligence Organization had been watching the party’s provincial offices in Mutare, MDC sources said.

Seventeen MDC officials including Kariba Executive Mayor John Houghton and Kwekwe member of parliament Blessing Chebundo were arrested September 23 in the northern city of Kariba, where they were holding a meeting on AIDS, MDC sources said. Houghton, Chebundo and four others face charges under the Public and Order Security Act for allegedly organizing an illegal meeting. Eleven others were freed.

On Sunday, September 24, another five MDC members were arrested in Siakobvu, a rural area outside Kariba. MDC sources said the the five were charged with holding an illegal meeting when in fact they were preparing for an upcoming rural council ballot.

Opposition sources added that the home of a Buhera member of the Tsvangirai MDC faction burned under suspicious circumstances this week.

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa in Harare why he thought Harare was stepping up pressure.

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