|4. July 2008
Soldiers kidnap opposition MP in attempt to reduce MDC majority in Parliament
Zimbabwe's opposition has accused the government of a campaign to wipe out its newly won majority in parliament after one of its MPs was abducted in broad daylight by soldiers outside the high court in Harare. The Movement for Democratic Change said the kidnapping, earlier this week, was part of an onslaught against its control of parliament by Robert Mugabe's forces which included the arrests of at least 10 opposition MPs on trumped-up charges and the forcing of many others into hiding or abroad through violence and threats to their families.
Naison Nemadziwa, MP for Buhera South in Manicaland, was able to make a mobile phone call to another opposition legislator after he was snatched on Monday and said he recognised the officer in charge of his abduction as an army colonel. Colleagues of the missing MP said the colonel is an associate of a war veterans' leader, Joseph Chinotimba, the ruling Zanu PF parliamentary candidate defeated by Nemadziwa in the March general election. Chinotimba is best known for jointly spearheading the sometimes violent seizure of white-owned farms.
Nemadziwa was at the high court to fight a legal challenge to his victory by Chinotimba, one of 53 court actions by Zanu PF aimed at overturning the opposition's 12-seat majority in parliament. Pishai Muchauraya, another MDC MP from Manicaland, received the call from Nemadziwa saying he was being abducted by armed men. "He said he recognised the one in charge as Colonel Morgan Mzilikazi. We know Mzilikazi. He works hand in hand with Chinotimba," said Muchauraya. "We know Chinotimba threatened to get rid of Naison. This is all part of a campaign against our MPs."
The opposition said the abduction is part of a strategy confirmed by a handwritten document obtained by the Guardian and drawn up by a senior Zimbabwean intelligence official for delivery to foreign observers, including a group of South African army generals sent to scrutinise the political violence. It says that opposition MPs are to be "silenced", jailed on charges of treason, and not allowed to move in their own constituencies.
Muchauraya said another Manicaland opposition MP, Mathias Mlambo, disappeared two weeks ago at a time when Zanu PF was threatening his life. The ruling party's forces are also targeting the families of MPs they are unable to find. Five relatives of Festus Dumbu, MP for Zaka West, were abducted earlier this week, and are still missing, when the assailants discovered he was not at home. The MDC also accuses the government of targeting its MPs for arrest on trumped up charges that carry prison sentences of more than six months which would see them barred from parliament and by-elections held. So far, 10 MDC MPs have been arrested. They include the party's secretary general, Tendai Biti, who is awaiting trial on treason charges, based on a forged document, and for announcing the election results without government approval. Four other MPs are still in prison on what the MDC says are false allegations. They include Eric Matinenga, MP for Buhera West, who is accused of sponsoring political violence despite a high court ruling that he be released.
Shua Mudiwa, MP for Mutare West, is detained on charges of kidnapping a 13-year-old girl. Other MPs have been charged with inciting police officers to revolt against the government. Eliah Jembere, MP for Epworth township near Harare, was accused of rape. The charge is ironic given that Zanu PF militia have used rape as a terror tactic against the opposition in Epworth. The judge threw out the case against Jembere. The police have issued a warrant for Elton Mangoma, MP for Makoni North, on charges of political violence. The MDC also says more than half of its MPs are in hiding. They include strategists such as Ian Makone, the party's chief election organiser. Others have fled the country, principally for Botswana which has said it will not recognise Mugabe's government. It is not clear whether they will return if parliament is seated but under Zimbabwean law they can be stripped of their seats if they do not attend parliament for 21 consecutive sittings.