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Zimbabwe Opposition, Under Pressure, Looks To African Union For Relief


Founding President Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change was set to travel to Ghana next week for a meeting with African Union Chairman John Kufuor, Ghana’s president, in which he hopes to convince the organization to pressure Harare to halt its ongoing crackdown on opponents.

Senior MDC officials said AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, a former Malian president, will also take part in the Accra meeting.

Konare displeased Zimbabwe civil society leaders last October when he declined to meet them while in Harare for discussions with President Robert Mugabe. But Kufuor in March described the international furor over Tsvangirai's severe beating while in Zimbabwean police custody March 11-13 as “embarrassing” for Africa.

Tsvangirai MDC faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Tsvangirai had intended to leave for Ghana on Wednesday, but canceled the journey after the sudden death of Isaac Matongo, the MDC's founding chairman, who died in his sleep that morning.

International Affairs Secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshure of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai will also update Kufuor and Konare on the mediation process led by South African President Thabo Mbeki under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community.

But independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom of South Africa said that even if the AU brings pressure to bear, President Mbeki will have his hands full convincing President Robert Mugabe to halt state violence and engage the opposition.

Meanwhile, a bail hearing for 13 jailed members of the Tsvangirai MDC faction was to take place on Friday despite efforts by Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi to call it off. He sent magistrate Lazarus Murendo a so-called ministerial certificate this week urging him to throw out the application for bail filed on behalf of the 13, who are alleged to have taken a hand in firebomb attacks against police posts.

Lawyer Andrew Makoni, representing the jailed activists, said he had been informed by the office of the attorney general that the bail hearing would go forward.

Makoni, who described the minister's intervention as "unlawful," detailed the charges faced by the activists, who are among a total of 31 MDC officials or members held on an assortment of charges since late March, to reporter Patience Rusere

Elsewhere, the MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara says it was much saddened by Matongo's death early Wednesday. Matongo was chairman of the MDC from its inception and sided with MDC founding President Morgan Tsvangirai when the party divided in late 2005 over whether or not to contest elections for the new senate.

Officials at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which Matongo once served as vice president, said his passing removed a source of wisdom. Matongo, who was 60, was to be buried at his rural home in Masvingo Province on Saturday.

Mutambara faction spokesman Gabriel Chaibva told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his death robbed Zimbabwe of a dedicated man who sought positive change.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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