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Zimbabwe Opposition Urge AU and South Africa To Help End State Crackdowns

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai has formally asked South Africa and the African Union to intervene to stop Harare’s ongoing crackdown on opposition members.

Faction Secretary General Tendai Biti said the grouping has written to AU commission Chairman Alpha Konare and spoken with President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation team in Pretoria, asking them to press Harare to stop the crackdown.

Heads of State of the Southern African Development Community in March named Mr. Mbeki as Zimbabwe's mediator in discussions between the MDC and the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The AU’s Pan-African parliament, currently in session in South Africa, is expected to debate a motion on the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe on Friday. The motion also calls for a fact-finding mission to be dispatched to Zimbabwe.

Some 32 MDC officials and activists including Glen View parliamentarian Paul Madzore, have been held in detention since late March, accused of terrorist acts.

The opposition has denied the charges saying it is a political ploy by Mr. Mugabe to silence his opponents ahead of the presidential election scheduled for March 2008.

But Zanu-PF chief whip Joram Gumbo, representing Zimbabwe at the session, has been quoted in the state-run Herald paper as saying he will ask that the motion be dismissed, calling the MDC’s claims unfounded.

Biti told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party welcomes moves by the AU parliament to discuss the Harare crisis, more still needs to be done by African leaders.

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