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Zimbabwe Opposition Accused of Treason - 2004-07-01


Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF has won a motion in parliament to investigate what it claims is treason by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Zanu PF accuses the opposition party of conspiring with Britain to overthrow President Robert Mugabe's government.

Zanu PF legislators say the opposition is conspiring with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to unseat President Mugabe.

The accusation is based on a statement Mr. Blair made to parliament in London last week that he was consulting with the Movement for Democratic Change and regional African leaders to put pressure for change on the Mugabe regime, because, "there is no salvation for the people of Zimbabwe until that regime is changed."

The MDC has been accused of drawing financial and political support from London ever since it was formed five years ago.

Britain denies financing the MDC, but it has regularly and publicly expressed support for the party's view of democracy. Britain has also decried what it sees as the disappearance of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

In the rowdy debate in parliament Wednesday, the MDC was accused of conspiring with the British to destroy the economy and of calling for sanctions against the Mugabe government. The only sanction in place is a travel ban on the ruling party elite to Europe and the United States. Some Zanu PF legislators called for the MDC to be banned ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

In rebuttal, MDC lawmakers argued they maintained contact with many African and Western governments and that Zanu PF members themselves had close contact with Britain over more than 20 years.

Spokesman for the MDC, Paul Themba Nyathi, dismissed the parliamentary motion to investigate his party as childish but, along with other members of the party, expressed concern that the parliamentary motion may serve as a precursor for a clampdown on the opposition.

MDC's Legal Secretary David Coltart said the parliamentary motion is unprecedented and has no legal basis.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai himself is under indictment for treason for having allegedly plotted to assassinate President Mugabe. He has denied the charges.

The British Embassy in Harare declined to comment on the parliamentary debate.

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