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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Tsvangirai Urges International Action

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, on a U.S. university speaking tour, called on the international community to take action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Zimbabwe where an increasing number of people need food assistance.

Tsvangirai, founding president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, issued the appeal in an interview Monday with the Houston Chronicle newspaper. He was set to address a forum at the University of St Thomas in Houston on Tuesday evening before traveling on to New York, Philadelphia and Canada.

Traveling with Tsvangirai is former parliamentarian Roy Bennett, South African-based treasurer for the Tsvangirai faction of the MDC. Bennett spent eight months in prison in 2005-06 serving a sentence imposed on him by the ruling party-controlled house for scuffling on the floor of parliament with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

The two men met Sunday in Dallas with the local branch of their opposition party.

Deputy Chief U.S. Representative Ralph Black of Tsvangirai's faction told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai is not meeting with U.S. officials on this trip – only with members of the party and the diaspora.

At home, meanwhile, Tsvangirai’s opposition faction denied reports that the leader of the formation's women's assembly, Lucia Matibenga, was sacked. The government-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that Matibenga had a falling out with the party leadership, upon which party chiefs dissolved the women’s grouping.

The Herald said the alleged firing was the “latest wave of division" in the opposition. The MDC split in late 2005 over whether to contest elections for a new senate.

MDC National Chairman Lovemore Moyo denied there was a rift, telling reporter Carole Gombakomba that the faction had not singled out Matibenga but decided to dissolve the Women’s Assembly after auditors turned up financial irregularities.

Matibenga said she could not comment because had not yet received any official communication from the party on the decision reported Tuesday in the Herald.

Separately, the Tsvangirai faction said the state’s withdrawal Monday of charges against activists held for months earlier this year on charges they carried out violent attacks proved the government is desperate to undermine the opposition.

Party Secretary General Tendai Biti said the formation suffered greatly between March and July when about 30 officials and activists were held in Harare remand jail on serious charges including banditry and sabotage.

Prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare told Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini that the state was withdrawing the charges though it might later issue summonses.

Biti told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the decision by the state prosecutor showed that the cases were trumped up.

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