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Zimbabwe Civic Groups Outraged By Arson Attempt Against Activist

Zimbabwean civil society and labor organizations expressed outrage Tuesday at the attempted arson early Sunday morning at the home of Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a leading civic group.

Unidentified assailants doused gasoline on the doors and windows of Madhuku’s house in the Waterfalls section of Harare and set it afire. He and his family escaped unharmed and the fire was extinguished without serious damage to the structure.

Madhuku has accused the Central Intelligence Organization in the arson attempt.

A number of civil society organizations have called a meeting Wednesday to discuss a response to the incident. Organizations including the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe National Students Union were to send representatives, civil society sources said.

Madhuku is among the country's most outspoken and effective opposition figures. He has organized numerous protest activities and has been arrested or detained by the police dozens of times. He was severely beaten and left for dead by the roadside in 2004 after he participated in a demonstration outside parliament.

Madhuku spearheaded a 2000 campaign urging voters to reject the new constitution proposed by President Robert Mugabe, dealing the president a major setback.

Civil society sources said Sunday's attack could be linked to Madhuku's opposition to the so-called "harmonization" of presidential and general elections by postponing the 2008 presidential election until 2010, when the next parliamentary ballot is due.

Spokesman Itayi Zimunya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition declined to comment on the possibility of protests over the attack, but he told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the response by civic groups must be firm.

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