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Zimbabwe Interior Minister Rebukes Police Over Public Clashes, Raid on Party

Makone said meetings she has held with President Robert Mugabe and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri on the conduct of the national police have not yielded any results

Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone called the national police to order on Friday following pitched battles between officers and street vendors in Harare and a raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to which she belongs.

On Friday the Tsvangirai MDC formation said said one of its supporters arrested in the raid Thursday on the party's Harvest House offices had sustained a broken leg.

In a statement, Makone said meetings she has held with President Robert Mugabe and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri on the conduct of the police have not yielded any results, as officers continue to violate human rights with impunity.

Makone also took the Zimbabwe Republic Police to task for alleged harassment and intimidation of ordinary citizens in the Matabeleland region and other rural areas.

Makone said police were continuing to beat local residents indiscriminately in Nkayi district in Matabeleland North province, among other troubled areas.

She admitted that she had limited powers to resolve the situation despite her ministerial position, but said she would continue doing all she could to keep peace and order on the way to elections which President Robert Mugabe demands be held by March.

Former Nkayi legislator and Tsvangirai MDC Deputy Organizing Secretary Abednico Bhebhe said villagers in Nkayi district were now living in fear.

"We are witnessing police officers every morning toyi-toying (marching) singing ZANU-PF songs and harassing people," Bhebhe said.

Political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda of the University of Huddersfield in London offered the opinion that there is little prospect of Mr. Mugabe stopping police actions likely to benefit his ZANU-PF party with national elections looming this year or next.

Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC called on Mr. Mugabe to retire four service chiefs whose terms have expired but are likely to be re-appointed by him at the end of this month.

Officials reappointed in the past by Mr. Mugabe include police chief Chihuri, Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander General Constantine Guveya Chiwenga, and Army Chief Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda. Chihuri’s current term expired last August and the terms of the other two ran out on December 31.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the re-appointments smacked of “lawlessness.” Attorney-General Johannes Tomana refused to comment.

Tsvangirai MDC Secretary for Defense Giles Mutsekwa demanded that the service chiefs step down and take part in politics as civilians. "They should just transfer themselves from being civil servants, uniformed people, to politicians," Mutsekwa said. "It's an interesting game, some of us enjoy it and we welcome them."

But Retired Major Cairo Mhandu, a ZANU-PF Member of the parliamentary committee on defense, said Mr. Mugabe has full powers to appoint the service chiefs.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Zimbabwe was missing a golden opportunity to address security sector reform given the expiration of the appointments.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his MDC have demanded reform of the national security apparatus as a key condition to agreeing to the scheduling of a new round of elections, arguing that as currently constituted, the police and armed forces will meddle in any ballot.

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