Concerned at an ongoing crackdown on Zimbabwean civic groups and opponents of President Robert Mugabe and his former ruling ZANU-PF party, Southern African regional leaders are now calling on Harare to immediately implement key reforms in the problematic national security sector, political and diplomatic sources said.
In the latest incident in the continuing saga of arrests and prosecutions of members of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, police have summoned legislator Douglas Mwonzora, already facing charges of inciting violence, on new charges of insulting President Mugabe.
Mwonzora, parliamentarian for Nyanga North, Manicaland province, and co-chairman for Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC of the parliamentary committee in charge of constitutional revision, was said to have made insulting comments while pointing at Mr. Mugabe's portrait.
Southern African Development Community sources said the arrests over the weekend of 13 pastors and others attending a prayer meeting in Harare showed that a recent call by SADC's troika or committee on politics, defense and security for an end to intimidation, violence and arbitrary arrests in Zimbabwe has not been heeded.
The sources said that without reform of the security apparatus including the police, the military and the Central Intelligence Organization, worse may be in store.
SADC leaders are to meet May 20 in Namibia for an extraordinary summit on the crisis in Zimbabwe. Sources said regional leaders want to see a final version of the road-map to the next elections which negotiators for the Harare governing parties are drafting.
Parliamentarian Mwonzora told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that police are targeting him and other critics of Mugabe in a well-coordinated crackdown.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao said he has yet to be briefed about the latest conditions in Zimbabwe.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said SADC must press Harare for significant reforms.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, speaking Wednesday at the funeral of a member of his party, denounced the political violence which has been on the rise in many parts of the country in recent months, urging all political parties to maintain peace.
Elsewhere, President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party politburo granted national hero status to Mennard Livingstone Muzariri, deputy director general of the Central Intelligence Organization, who died on Monday at the age of 56.
The former freedom fighter and long-serving member of the intelligence branch attached to Mugabe’s office was to be buried Thursday at National Heroes Acre. Paying tribute to Muzariri, Mugabe called him a true hero who sacrificed to liberate Zimbabwe.
The designation of national heroes has become a sore point within the unity government as this function is carried out by ZANU-PF without consultation with the MDC.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the late Muzariri deserves the national hero designation.