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Police raid MDC offices

HARARE – Zimbabwe police raided the provincial offices of a splinter faction of the country’s opposition party, looking for arms and subversive material, a party offici

al said on Monday.

The raid in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo follows official allegations of plots against President Robert Mugabe, whose 26-year rule is being challenged by the divided opposition.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has split into two feuding groups over tactics against Mugabe. Founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai called at the weekend for mass protests against the veteran president.

The official said the targeted office belonged to a faction led by MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda and secretary-general Welshman Ncube. It broke ranks with Tsvangirai and elected a former student activist, Arthur Mutambara, as its leader.

Police spent the night at the party’s offices in Bulawayo and mounted a search on Monday, Maxwell Zimuto, the faction’s head of information, told Reuters from the city.

“I can confirm that police are here as I speak … they have a search warrant to look for arms of war and any subversive material,” Zimuto said.

Police could not immediately comment on Monday.

The opposition accuses Mugabe’s government of using security laws to stamp down on opponents trying to end his long rule since independence from Britain in 1980.

Early this month seven people, including an opposition legislator, were charged with a plot to assassinate Mugabe and destabilise the country, but the state dropped the charges against six of them last week.

The authorities said they had discovered an arms cache in the eastern town of Mutare at the home of a former policeman in Rhodesia — Zimbabwe’s name before independence — which they said was to be used against senior officials.

Tsvangirai won re-election as head of his MDC faction on Sunday and called in an address to about 15,000 congress delegates for a “cold season of peaceful democratic resistance” against Mugabe’s rule.

He said only sustained mass protests could overcome what he called government brutality.

There has been no immediate government reaction to Tsvangirai’s call, but the authorities have routinely deployed security forces to crush political protests. — Reuter

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