Raids ordered on offices of Mugabe's opposition

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The Independent Online

Detectives and intelligence agents escorted by armed paramilitary police yesterday raided offices of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe and arrested four officials.

Detectives and intelligence agents escorted by armed paramilitary police yesterday raided offices of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe and arrested four officials.

A second warrant issued by a provincial magistrate empowered police to expand their search and scrutinise documents and computer files at three main Harare offices of the Movement for Democratic Change. The first search warrant said police suspected the three buildings were used by the opposition to store "arms of war". No weapons were found, Welshman Ncube, the party's secretary general, said.

The opposition viewed the raids as a pretext to seize information on party strategies before presidential elections next year and details of its funds so supporters and donors could be subject to harassment, Mr Ncube said. "That must be one of the reasons behind this nonsensical operation," he said.

Police refused to comment. The opposition party won 57 of 120 elected seats in parliamentary elections in June. The results of the vote posed the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's hold on power since he led the nation to independence in 1980. In the outgoing parliament, Mr Mugabe's ruling party controlled all but three seats.

At least 31 people died and thousands were left homeless in political violence before the elections. Most of the victims were opposition supporters.

Around dawn yesterday, police raided the party headquarters north of the city centre and two other party buildings.

Join Nkhatazo, the party's chief security officer, and an assistant, Socks Ncube, were arrested. Later, police arrested the youth leader, Nelson Chamisa, and Gandi Mudzingwa, a personal assistant to the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, accusing them of gun running. None of the four officials was charged or told of specific charges they were to face, the opposition said.

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