Leaders of Zimbabwe's National Association of Non-governmental Organizations, NANGO, were arrested Sunday ahead of an anticipated meeting Monday between President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The leaders were expected to discuss Mr. Tsvangirai's recent disengagement from the unity government.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights' Irene Petras tells VOA the two NANGO officials arrested were the chief executive and chairperson. She said they were on their way to the Victoria Falls airport.
The association represents hundreds of non-governmental groups who work mainly in the fields of human rights and welfare.
They are the latest in a long list of MDC supporters and human rights activists detained since the unity government was formed.
Human rights groups say that no ZANU-PF supporters have been arrested since the unity government was formed. They also charge that not one person has yet been arrested in connection with murders of about 200 MDC supporters during last year's elections which was won by the MDC.
The MDC says that the selective arrests, particularly since February, are just one reason why Mr. Tsvangirai partially disengaged from the unity government ten days ago. Since then Mr. Tsvangirai and officials from his party have not participated in cabinet or other meetings with ZANU-PF officials.
Mr. Tsvangirai said the reason for his action was Mr. Mugabe's failure to meet many conditions of the year-old political agreement which brought a coalition government to power in February. Earlier, Mr. Tsvangirai described ZANU-PF as an "unreliable and dishonest" partner.
Mr. Tsvangirai has since been on a brief regional shuttle, meeting some leaders of Southern Africa Development Community which, along with the African Union, guaranteed the political agreement that brought into being the unity government. That agreement was mediated by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Last week, following what police claim was theft of some weapons from a Zimbabwe National Army camp close to the capital Harare, a house used by MDC executives was raided by 50 armed policemen, who said they were looking for guns. Two people staying at the house were forced to dig up large sections of the yard around the house, and say they were then beaten up. No guns were found.
Both western diplomats and members of the donor community say they fear a crackdown on non-governmental organizations which Mr. Mugabe recently said were agents of the west. He frequently accuses western countries of financing a program of "regime change" in Zimbabwe.
In a brief telephone discussion Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a senior member of Zanu PF, Monday told VOA he was "not aware" that the two NGO leaders had been arrested in Victoria Falls.