By Cris Chinaka and Stella Mapenzauswa
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s government on Wednesday threatened to physically “eliminate” political opponents seeking to overthrow it unconstitutionally after the discovery of an arms cache and suspected plot.
ecurity Minister Didymus Mutasa made the warning on state television a day after the broadcaster said police had found weapons in the eastern city of Mutare and made an arrest.
Investigators said the suspect, Peter Hitschmann, claimed to have been working with former members of the Rhodesian forces now serving in Zimbabwe’s military to obtain the arms and plan acts of sabotage, Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) reported.
It was not possible to obtain independent verification of the report by ZTV, which displayed the alleged arms cache during its Wednesday evening news bulletin. It included AK-47 automatic rifles and machineguns.
The station also reported on Wednesday evening that six people had been arrested and that the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement was launched in London in November 2003 with British gay activist Peter Tatchell as one of its top supporters.
Among those arrested were opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members Giles Mutsekwa and Roy Bennett.
ZTV claimed that the group planned operations in several towns, and had cached arms in Mutare partly to harm government and ruling ZANU-PF officials at Mugabe’s 82nd birthday celebrations in the eastern border city two weeks ago.
In an interview with ZTV, Mutasa warned that government opponents might be eliminated.
“They (Zimbabweans) are absolutely secure. The only people who may not be secure, and may I repeat, are those people who are causing these problems because we will not spare them,” Mutasa said.
“And if it came to a position where we have to eliminate them physically because of what they are doing, then it is their fault, that is what they are looking for, and we will not hesitate to do that,” he added.
Mutasa suggested that main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was among opponents who had entertained thoughts of removing Mugabe, in power for the last 26 years, by force and warned the government would deal sternly with them.
“If the people, as I must repeat, like Tsvangirai do not believe that, they are living in cuckooland and we will not let them proceed along the disastrous way that they have shaped for themselves,” he said.
OPPOSITION MDC DENIES LINKS
ZTV said Hitschmann claimed he was working for an organisation called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement that was coordinated by the MDC’s Mutsekwa and Bennett.
In London, Thatchell denied any involvement with with the movement. “These claims are propaganda by the Mugabe government. The liberation of Zimbabwe is a matter for the people of Zimbabwe,” he told Reuters.
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.
On Wednesday, Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for one of two estranged MDC factions, said the party had no links with Hitschmann and slammed what he called attempts by the government to derail its congress set for next week.
“This morning, the police arrested Giles Mutsekwa … and Brian James, the MDC’s provincial treasurer for Manicaland. We see their arrest as a ploy by the regime to destabilise the forthcoming congress by implicating our officials,” he said.
“The MDC does not have any links with the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) special constabulary, Mr. Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom Movement or any person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through the barrel of the gun.” — Reuter