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Pattern of Prosecutions of MDC Lawmakers Troubles Zimbabwe Government

Tensions were on the rise again in Zimbabwe's national unity government with the conviction of a fifth member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which alleged a campaign of judicial abuse.

House of Assembly Member Ernest Mudavanhu, who represents Zaka North constituency in the eastern province of Masvingo, received a one-year prison sentence Monday after a Harare magistrate found him guilty of diverting agricultural materials provided by the state.

Including Mudavanhu, 13 House members and one senator have been embroiled in the legal system, five of them convicted and sentenced to date.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation Wednesday said the charges were trumped up and charged that the former ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe is plotting with “other mischievous conspirators” to whittle away at the MDC majority in parliament. Under the constitution a legislator sentenced to six months or more in prison is unseated.

The MDC was also unhappy that communications reform legislation drafted by Information Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa has been blocked.

Information Secretary Charles Charamba and Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda were quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as accusing Chamisa of trying to usurp the powers of other ministries. The bill seeks to open up media and telecommunications.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that there has been no selective application of the law against the MDC.

MDC Chief Whip Innocent Gonese responded Chinamasa was not being sincere.

Political analyst Peter Kagwanja said that in light of such problems it is a miracle the unity government constituted in February has survived this long.

Johannesburg-based human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the convictions of MDC politicians come as no surprise as the Zimbabwean judiciary is heavily biased against the former opposition.

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