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Zimbabwe: MDC Worried About Leader's Physical Condition

Police in Zimbabwe have confirmed killing one man and arresting many top opposition leaders while breaking up a planned anti-government rally in Harare Sunday. Zimbabwe's main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says police killed Gift Tandare when they fired on innocent, unarmed people. But a police spokesman says the dead man was a "thug" who led an attack on officers. Meanwhile, the fate of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who also was arrested Sunday, is unknown.

Eliphas Mukonoweshuro is international affairs secretary for the MDC. He said the MDC is concerned about Mr.Tsvangirai's physical condition.

“Mr. Tsvangirai was severely assaulted by the police, and we don’t know the state of his physical condition at the moment because the police are refusing lawyers to have access to him,” he said.

Mukonoweshuro said the MDC is worried about Mr. Tsvangirai because soon after he was arrested the police shot and killed one of the protesters dead.

He denied the MDC might have provoked the police, especially since the authorities had said they would not permit any demonstration.

“The MDC did not provoke the police at all. This was not an MDC rally. It was a rally that was organized by the Christian Alliance of Zimbabwe under the auspices of what they called Save Zimbabwe Campaign. And under the Public Order and Security Act, religious organizations are exempt from informing the police of their intention to hold any gathering. Mr. Tsvangirai and his colleagues were going there to attend a church service. So it was not a provocation at all, rather it was the police trying to decide who should attend the church service and who should not attend the church service,” he said.

Mukonoweshuro said all political parties, including the ruling ZANU-PF, had been invited to attend what he said was a church service.

He said nothing, even an attack by the police, would stop the MDC from continuing with its non-violent, peaceful democratic resistance program.

“This is only the beginning, and I believe that we will be going on until the people’s demands are met. The people’s demands are very clear. They want a new constitution ahead of any possible presidential election in 2008,” Mukonoweshuro said.

He said the MDC is aware of the lost of innocent life. But he said the police should be held responsible.

“We are not in any way responsible for the blood shed that is going on. We don’t have weapons; we are not fighting anybody. What people are saying is that they want their economic rights, their social rights respected by this government. It is this government which is using arms of war to ensure that these rights continue to be stifled,” he said.

Mukonoweshuro said the MDC would attempt again Monday to see Mr. Tsvangirai and to inform the world about his condition. He reiterated that the MDC would continue its peaceful, democratic resistance to the Mugabe government.