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Zimbabwe State Media Report Says Arms Cache Found


Zimbabwe state media reports that a cache of what it describes as arms of war was unearthed in the eastern border town of Mutare. The report said a former member of the colonial Rhodesian armed forces had been arrested in connection with the weapons.

The report said the cache was comprised of an AK-47 rifle, four FN rifles, seven Uzis, four 303 rifles with telescopic sights, 11 shotguns, six CZ pistols, two long-range pistols, four revolvers, and radio communication systems. In addition to 15 tear smoke canisters and 20 flares, thousands rounds of ammunition were also allegedly recovered by the police.

The state-owned daily, The Herald, identified Peter Hitschmann as the suspect in police custody. Hitschmann is a member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police Special Constabulary. He is alleged to have said he was working for an organization called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement. Hitschmann is said to have been working with opposition Movement for Democratic Change members Roy Bennett, a former member of parliament, and Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC's defense spokesperson as coordinators.

The newspaper further alleges that the suspect recruited former members of the colonial era security forces, some of whom are serving members of Zimbabwe's armed forces, to work towards what it called the opposition party's agenda for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Freedom Movement is an obscure group which in 2003 called on President Robert Mugabe to step down or be removed by force. The Herald claims the organization arranged to set up offices in the eastern province of Manicaland of which Mutare is the capital and also opened a bank account in neighboring Mozambique to finance its operations.

In a statement Wednesday, the MDC announced the arrest of Mutsekwa and Brian James, the party's provincial treasurer for Manicaland. Bennett could not be reached for comment. But, Nelson Chamisa the spokesperson of the MDC dismissed the claims as the machinations of the ruling Zanu-PF party to sabotage his party's congress slated for later this month.

Chamisa told VOA that the MDC is neither a guerilla movement nor what he called a bandit formation. He said the MDC believes people, not military power shall unseat the Mugabe regime.

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