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Zimbabwean Opposition Party Denies Plot to Commit Acts of Violence

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change is denying allegations that it plans to commit acts of violence to discredit the March 31 parliamentary election.

The Movement for Democratic Change is dismissing allegations that it sent people abroad for training, so they could come back to Zimbabwe and commit acts of violence.

A report in the state-controlled daily, The Herald, said five of what it described as opposition party "hit men" had handed themselves over to the police.

The newspaper said the five were trained in pistol and explosive handling in South Africa, with the aim of destabilizing the country during the run-up to the March 31 poll. It said the Movement for Democratic Change hoped the ruling ZANU-PF party and the government would be blamed for the violence.

The newspaper report follows a weekend statement by ZANU-PF's election spokesperson, Webster Shamu, who said his party has information that the opposition wants to discredit the election process because it is likely to lose.

Dismissing the claims as deeply mischievous and baseless, opposition spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi denied sending anybody for training anywhere. He said his party is unequivocally committed to non-violence and democracy. He said the claims are meant to tarnish the image of the MDC in the eyes of voters ahead of the March 31 poll.

An MDC press statement said the party has information that the five alleged hit men were recruited in Johanneburg by a Central Intelligence Organization (the government spy organization) operative and brought back to Zimbabwe to stage their 'confessions'. The statement gives the name of the man in charge of the operation.

Mr. Themba Nyathi also made reference to an April 2003 incident, when the government alleged that 23 army deserters had been arrested for plotting with the MDC to bomb gas stations. They were also accused of assaulting members of the general public to tarnish the image of the national army in order to spark a nationwide uprising.

Mr. Themba Nyathi said, after being paraded before the media, the alleged deserters were never heard from again. "It is election season, and we are prepared for many more absurd charges," he told VOA.