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Zimbabwe Opposition Activist Shot Dead; Retired Army Officer Implicated

Sources in Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Thursday that an activist in provincial Kwekwe was shot to death on Wednesday, allegedly by a retired army officer with connections to the ruling ZANU-PF party. The sources said another activist shot in the same incident was in critical condition in a hospital.

MDC sources accused retired Brigadier General Benjamin Mabenge of fatally shooting Clement Takaendesa and seriously wounding Taurai Chigede, who was said to be fighting for his life in Kwekwe General Hospital.

The government-controlled Herald newspaper reported on its Web site late Thursday that Mabenge had been arrested early Thursday.

The newspaper said the shooting victims were alleged to have been poaching on the retired army officer's property, Woodlands Farm, 15 kilometers from Kwekwe.

Sources said Mabenge is an election agent for Rural Affairs Minister Emerson Mnangagwa. But the minister told VOA he didn't know Mabenge.

Police in Harare said police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka was handling the matter but was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, the situation in often-volatile Kwekwe, about 220 kilometers from Harare, was said to be tense. Opposition sources said the houses of MDC officials were being stoned by alleged supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Health Secretary Henry Madzorera of the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, of which the victims of the Kwekwe shootings were members, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the shooting was unprovoked.

The MDC faction headed by party founder Morgan Tsangirai has told the government that it must take action to suppress political violence which is on the rise nationally in the runup to local, general and presidential elections slated for March 2008.

The Tsvangirai faction and the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara have made political violence a key issue in the crisis resolution talks that have been taking place under South African guidance since March. Tsvangirai's faction has warned that if the violence does not cease, it may conclude the talks are meaningless and pull out.

Sources in the Tsvangirai faction said another MDC activist was abducted, assaulted by suspected state agents and dumped outside Harare on Wednesday.

Negotiations resumed on Wednesday in Pretoria after a two-week break, but quickly broke off again due to a death in the family of one of the negotiators.

So far talks have led to bipartisan support for a constitutional amendment making major changes to the country's electoral framework, and cooperation on a draft constitution. But the opposition is pressing for further reforms to electoral law and the repeal of laws on public order and the media, both considered repressive.

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