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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai's Party to Protest Latest Round of Arrests of Members

Tsvangirai MDC spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo charged that the arrests were made at the behest of ZANU-PF to pressure the party and intimidate the public into accepting the constitutional draft the former ruling party backs

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change said Monday it intends to lodge a formal complaint with South African President Jacob Zuma, regional mediator in Harare's power sharing arrangement, over a recent spate of arrests of a number of MDC lawmakers and party officials.

Tsvangirai MDC deputy spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo charged that the arrests were being carried out at the behest of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF as a means of pressuring the party and intimidating the public into accepting the constitutional draft that the former ruling party wants to see adopted.

Under the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing the country has embarked on constitutional revision with the public outreach or comment phase of the exercise scheduled to begin next week. ZANU-PF has been pushing the so-called Kariba constitutional draft which would bolster presidential powers.

MDC District Chairman Tedious Chipere of Makoni Central, Manicaland province, surrendered Monday to police and was charged with denigrating President Mugabe in a speech last month in Nyanga on the occasion of Africa Day, his lawyer, Blessing Nyamaropa, told VOA. Chipere was expected to be arraigned tomorrow.

Member of Parliament Ian Kay for Marondera, Mashonaland East province, appeared in magistrate’s court Monday in Marondera to face charges of distributing expired pharmaceuticals and was released on bail of US$500.

MDC Deputy Organizing Secretary Morgan Komichi, senator for Hwange Central, was also in court on Monday to face charges he denigrated Mr. Mugabe at a rally. But the charge was dismissed by a magistrate in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province.

Epworth legislator Elia Jembere of the MDC formation was arrested on Saturday, also for alleged disrespect to the president during a rally in Shamva, Mashonaland Central province.

Makoni South legislator Pishayi Mucharauya was in court Friday in Mutare, Manicaland province, also for remarks allegedly insulting to President Mugabe. The court said it would proceed by summons, which in Zimbabwe is often taken to mean that although the charges have not been dismissed they will not be pressed.

Tsvangirai MDC spokeswoman Khumalo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the Tsvangirai MDC formation is urging members not to be intimidated and to participate fully in the constitution revision process.

Elsewhere, an attorney representing former member of Parliament Job Sikhala, founder of a third formation of the MDC, asked a Harare magistrate to release Sikhala from remand pending the disposition of charges he held a meeting in May to launch the MDC breakaway grouping without police authorization.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare.