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Zimbabwe Soldiers Said To Administer Beatings Over Parking Violation

A senior official of the Zimbabwe's opposition faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai and a prospective candidate for parliament said Thursday that they were beaten severely by soldiers at defense headquarters in Harare for parking a party vehicle nearby.

Chief Executive Officer Toindepi Shonhe of the Movement for Democratic Change faction said he parked the vehicle outside Defense House in downtown Harare and entered the Ambassador Hotel to meet Julius Mangagoma, a prospective candidate for the lower house in the Buhera North constituency of Mashonaland East.

Shonhe said hotel staff told him soldiers were looking for the driver of the vehicle, and when he returned to his parking place he was set upon by eight soldiers and dragged into a basement where they began to beat him. When Mangagoma went looking for Shonhe, he too was forced into the basement and beaten, the two men said.

Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

Meanwhile, faction leader and MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai called an emergency meeting on Sunday of all the formation's provincial leaders in 120 districts, but party officials said they could not provide information on the agenda for the meeting.

The Tsvangirai faction last month launched an outreach program to explain to its civic allies and other supporters why it had voted with the ruling ZANU-PF party to pass the 18th amendment to the constitution over the objections of many party members. The amendment significantly modified the country's electoral framework, among other provisions expanding the lower house of parliament to 210 seats from 150.

Sources say Tsvangirai may be intending consult with or solicit input from the faction's provincial leaders about the ongoing South African-mediated crisis resolution talks that yielded what some considered a historic compromise on the amendment - but which have made some MDC backers uneasy due to the secrecy surrounding them.

The Tsvangirai faction has also been troubled since last month by divisions over the leadership's dissolution of the executive committee of its women's wing.

The faction's organizing secretary, former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while the controversy over the women's assembly shuffle may not be on Sunday's agenda, Tsvangirai clearly intends to engage his provincial officers at a crucial moment for the formation.

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