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Zimbabwe police raid offices of opposition party

Latest update : 2008-04-26

Armed riot police detained members of the opposition MDC party during a crackdown following last month's disputed elections.

Zimbabwean police raided the headquarters of the opposition and independent election observers on Friday as the United States ratcheted up the diplomatic pressure on veteran President Robert Mugabe.
Dozens of supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were held in the raid on its offices in downtown Harare in an operation that police said was aimed at finding the perpetrators of recent arson attacks.
The head of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said police had confiscated a series of documents after rifling through their offices with a warrant to find documents which could be used to topple the government.
The raids added to mounting tensions in the troubled southern African nation where the final outcome of joint presidential and parliamentary elections held on March 29 is still unknown.
Following allegations of vote fraud, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ordered a vote recount in 23 of the country's 210 constituencies -- most of them won by the MDC.
An electoral official told AFP on Friday that the recount had been completed in 14 regions but declined to reveal the results.
The ruling ZANU-PF party was earlier confirmed as the winner in two constituencies.
"This is systematic harassment," said chief opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa after a riot squad rounded up a busload of MDC supporters and drove them away for questioning at central police headquarters.
"What is clear is that these people are desperate and they can do anything."
National police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said officers had been searching for the perpetrators of a number of recent violent incidents.
"We do know that too many people have taken shelter at the MDC offices and we suspect some of them have committed arson attacks in rural areas and have come to hide in some safe houses," he told AFP.
There was no immediate word from the police about the raid on the ZESN, but the organisation's chairman Noel Kututwa said some files and computer equipment had been confiscated.
"They had a search warrant which stated that they were looking for subversive material which is likely to be used to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government," Kututwa told AFP.
Figures from the ZESN were cited by the main US envoy for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, when she declared on a visit to South Africa Thursday that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had clearly beaten Mugabe.
After meeting with South African government officials, Frazer then met with Tsvangirai to discuss his recent talks with regional leaders and growing reports of violence on the ground.
Frazer travelled to Luanda on Friday for talks with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, a long-time ally of Mugabe, where she reiterated her call that it was time for a change of regime.
"If there is going to be some type of inclusive government, government of national unity, that should be led by the candidate with most votes and that is Morgan (Tsvangirai)," leader of the MDC, she said.
Also on Friday, authorities in Angola gave authorisation for a Chinese ship loaded with arms destined for Zimbabwe to dock in Luanda but said the arms could not be unloaded, Angolan state news agency Angop reported.
China and Zimbabwe have defended their right to conduct arms deals in the face of criticism from Western countries and human rights groups, which fear the arms could be used in a government crackdown.
The authorities in Zimbabwe have hit out at outside interference following the country's elections and have said the delay in announcing the presidential election result is down to a meticulous process of verifying ballot papers.
In a speech in the southern city of Bulawayo on Friday, Mugabe avoided any direct reference to the election but stressed the former British colony would not be ordered around.
"Zimbabwe has a history and heritage and it will never be afraid. Zimbabwe is not for sale and Zimbabwe will never be a colony again," he said at the opening of a trade fair.
Mugabe, who has ruled without interruption since independence in 1980, has presided over a dramatic economic collapse of a country which has the world's highest inflation rate, officially put at 165,000 percent.

Date created : 2008-04-25