Rioting as Mugabe faces impeachment

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The Independent Online

Riots erupted in Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare yesterday as the nation's political opposition prepared to begin impeachment proceedings in parliament today against President Robert Mugabe.

Riots erupted in Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare yesterday as the nation's political opposition prepared to begin impeachment proceedings in parliament today against President Robert Mugabe.

Police used tear gas and batons against hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest against a 30 per cent rise in bread and maize prices. At least 19 people were arrested and shops were looted, a week after similar riots erupted in Harare over price increases. Police and army units, which remain on high alert, quelled the Harare riots after three days using massive quantities of tear gas, widespread public beatings and the arrest of more than 200 people.

The renewed street battles and the impeachment fight in parliament promise to heighten an already bitter political atmosphere. Welshman Ncube, MP and secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) involved in drafting the impeachment charges, said: "The constitution is quite clear that the President is obliged to uphold the laws of the country and he is quite clearly not doing that. What has happened here is a systematic and wilful violation of the rule of law."

The impeachment papers, drawn up at the weekend, cite Mr Mugabe for wilful violation of the constitution" and "gross misconduct," the two criteria listed in the constitution.

Mr Ncube acknowledged the impeachment drive faced many hurdles, but said it was aimed at establishing accountability for Mr Mugabe. With 57 parliamentary seats, the MDC has the minimum number of votes needed to launch impeachment hearings under the constitution.

Impeachment charges must be heard by a panel of MPs then debated and voted on by the full house, in which Mr Mugabe controls 92 seats. There are no clear rules on how the charges will be investigated and the extent to which the opposition can be barred from participating in the impeachment panel.

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