Zimbabwe secure after arms cache discovery – minister

By Stella Mapenzauswa

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s security minister said on Wednesday the country was secure after the discovery of an arms cache that authorities say was tied to a destabilisation plot involving opposition members and army officers.

State broad

caster Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) said on Tuesday police had found the weapons in the eastern city of Mutare and arrested a former member of the military in the white minority administration of what was once the British colony of Rhodesia.

Investigators said the suspect claimed to have been working with former members of the Rhodesian forces currently serving in Zimbabwe’s military to obtain the arms as well as plan acts of sabotage and destabilisation, ZTV reported.

In remarks broadcast on state radio on Wednesday, Security Minister Didymus Mutara said Zimbabwe was “very secure.”

“What I’m not sure is whether we can continue to guarantee the security of those saboteurs threatening the stability of the country,” Mutara added.

ZTV said security agencies had recovered an impressive arsenal including AK-47 automatic rifles, machineguns, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, tear gas canisters, flares, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a two-way radio communication system.

It said the arrested man, identified as Peter Hitschmann, said he was working for an organisation called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement that was coordinated by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members Giles Mutsekwa and Roy Bennett.

President Robert Mugabe accuses the MDC of working with Western countries to try to oust him from power, mainly over his seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to poor blacks.

Mugabe recently said that the country was still threatened by “the monster of imperialism.”

Mutsekwa and Bennett could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for one of two estranged MDC factions, said Mutsekwa had been summoned to Harare’s main police station and two MDC officials had been arrested in Mutare.

“No time as a party has the MDC engaged in some kind of undemocratic methods to remove the current government from power … It is part of harassment against the opposition by this regime,” Chamisa told Reuters. “I have no doubt that Mr. Bennett will be in police custody by the end of the day.”

Bennett, a former coffee farmer and MDC legislator, was released from jail last year after serving about eight months for assaulting a government minister during a heated debate on land seizures.

Last week official sources told Reuters the government had put its security services on high alert over fears that bitter wage disputes and a new round of consumer price hikes might spark street protests as the country grappled with a deepening economic crisis widely blamed on poor governance. — Reuter

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