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Zimbabwe police raid opposition offices


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Arthur Mutambara Biography

Statement by Prof Arthur Mutambara

By Lebo Nkatazo

ZIMBABWEAN police launched a late night raid on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's regional offices in Bulawayo Sunday, hours after party leader Arthur Mutambara addressed thousands of cheering supporters in the city.

A team of 10 heavily armed officers descended on the MDC offices just before 8pm, and would not allow anyone to leave or enter the premises, the party said in a statement.

The police kept their vigil until Monday morning when they produced a search warrant. Details of the warrant said the officers were looking for "arms of war".

The basis of the search as outlined in the warrant was that: "There were reasonable grounds for believing that there is in possession, or under the control of the MDC Provincial Adminstrator, or upon or in MDC offices, a certain article or articles that is to say, arms of war, which are unlicensed, which it is on reasonable grounds, believed may afford evidence of the commission or suspected commission of an offence."

The raid comes barely a week after seven opposition activists were rounded up in the eastern border town of Mutare, accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

A small cache of arms was discovered in the house of an arms dealer, which police wanted to link to the MDC. The case against six of the men collapsed in farcical circumstances when a judge ordered their release following a series of bust-ups between the prosecutors and security agents.

In a statement, MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said: "MDC officials were this morning locked out of the offices until at around 0930 when the police were able to produce a search warrant and proceeded to carry out the search for the so called 'arms of war'. The police have since carried out the search in all the party offices, including in all the party vehicles but have found nothing."

Nyathi charged that the raid was aimed at intimidating the opposition party and its supporters, and was a demonstration of partisan interests within Zimbabwe's police force.

He added: "The MDC President, Professor Arthur Mutambara has made it clear at every fora, including at Sunday's rally at White City Stadium, which was attended by 10 000 people, that MDC seek to take power from the current government through democratic means.

"We do not believe in the use of force and have always spoken against any form of violence. We have never kept arms of war and will never do so in future.

"The police force is a national institution and must maintain its good name by desisting from engaging in what appears to be asignments that are clearly designed to stifle MDC through the use of intimidatory tactics on our supporters. We condemn the behaviour of some of the police officers."

No comment was immediately available from the police.
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