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Zimbabwe arrests belie claims of progress
Tony Hawkins, Financial Times (UK)
May 27, 2007

While South African President Thabo Mbeki claims that "good progress" is being made in talks between President Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the reality on the ground is very different.

On Saturday, police raided the MDC's head office in Harare arresting an estimated 200 officials and supporters. Mr Nelson Chamisa, party spokesman, said three truckloads of police had broken up a routine meeting of the party. "They had no search warrant. They gave no reasons but they have taken in our members who were holding meetings there."

A police spokesman said that "quite a number of people" had been "picked up" in connection with recent petrol bomb attacks.

The government claims that the MDC launched a number of petrol bomb attacks on "state institutions" between March 12 and April 22, but the MDC insists that it was not responsible for any such attacks, accusing the government of trying to "frame" the political opposition by carrying out the bomb attacks itself.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said: "Our position remains that this is a campaign to destroy us before the elections, and that the so-called MDC violence is being stage-managed by the government to justify this crackdown."

The opposition says that the country is under an effective state of emergency and that serious political negotiations to end the crisis are simply impossible under such conditions.

MDC officials fear that President Mbeki's comments about good progress in the negotiations are part of his strategy to blame the opposition and civil society for the inevitable breakdown in negotiations and use this as grounds for supporting President Robert Mugabe's government in presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March next year.

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