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Zimbabwe Government in Further Turmoil After Re-Arrest of Energy Minister

MDC officials charged that the crackdown reflects a strategy by ZANU-PF to whittle down the number of MDC lawmakers in the House of Assembly ahead of a crucial vote for speaker expected on Tuesday

Zimbabwe's long-troubled unity government was thrown into further turmoil on Friday with the arrest of Energy Minister Elton Mangoma for the second time this month on charges of corruption in connection with procurement of meters for the national power utility.

Mangoma, an official of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested on March 10 on charges of abuse of office over a tender for the purchase of fuel from a South African company.

Lawyers for Mangoma said all the charges were unfounded while his party called them political and trumped up.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Mangoma, who was released on bail on March 15, was arrested on his way to work.

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti, who is also finance minister, said state agents and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe were mounting coordinated attacks on the former opposition party and other democratic forces in the country.

Police were said to be seeking to arrest Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone - in theory one of two ministerial level officials with oversight on police activities.

Makone said she left her office Friday morning after being informed that the police were seeking her in connection with statements made two weeks ago by Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri that Makone was abusing her office.

She said she received information that police were also looking for Glen View South Member of Parliament Paul Madzore and former House speaker Lovemore Moyo.

Makone told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the crackdown is a strategy by ZANU-PF to whittle down the number of MDC lawmakers in the House of Assembly ahead of a crucial vote for speaker that may take place Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai was said to be in South Africa seeking a meeting with President Jacob Zuma to discuss the alleged crackdown. Mr. Zuma is mediating in the Zimbabwe crisis on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.

Sources in Pretoria said the meeting might take place Saturday.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri told reporter Blessing Zulu that the courts should deal with MDC cases in an impartial manner in order to diffuse political tensions.

Elsewhere, Clerk of Parliament Austine Zvoma said President Mugabe has yet to proclaim a date for the election of a new House speaker.