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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Not Charged with Treason - 2002-02-28

South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma says the Zimbabwean government has assured him that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has not been charged with treason, as widely reported.

Mr. Zuma made the statement after an overnight visit to Zimbabwe to hold talks with officials there, including President Robert Mugabe, ahead of next month's presidential elections.

Mr. Zuma quoted the Zimbabwean government as saying Mr. Tsvangirai was questioned by police over an alleged plot to assassinate President Mugabe, but no charges were filed.

On Monday, Zimbabwean police and Mr. Tsvangirai said the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had been charged with treason over the alleged plot.

Mr. Tsvangirai is the main challenger to President Mugabe in the March 9th and 10th election. Mr. Mugabe is struggling to maintain his 22-year grip on power and has been widely criticized for cracking down on the media and opposition.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tsvangirai has filed a lawsuit against an Australian television network for airing a report purporting to show him plotting to assassinate President Mugabe. A spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai says the report, which first aired the allegations of the alleged assassination plot, was clearly designed to defame the opposition leader.

Australia's S-B-S television aired a program February 13th which allegedly showed Mr. Tsvangirai meeting with a Canadian consulting firm and plotting to eliminate President Mugabe. Mr. Tsvangirai has emphatically denied the allegation.