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Tsvangirai and Biti face arrest

By Chengetai Zvauya

HARARE – Police and Zanu PF have launched a fresh campaign to crush the MDC in a plan which involves arresting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Finance minister Tendai Biti and other top officials.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance minister Tendai Biti
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance minister Tendai Biti

The MDC says it is aware Tsvangirai and Biti could be arrested soon but has warned that it will do everything to expose the “grand plan” to weaken the party ahead of possible elections.

A dossier has been compiled to support MDC’s case against the clampdown, and would be handed over to Sadc and the African Union. Police have been on the coat tails of both Tsvangirai and Biti for more than six months but critics say the probes are politically-motivated.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena refused to reveal details on the matter. “I have no comment to make and I have nothing to say.”

Last week, detectives scoured four financial institutions, perusing the financial records and transactions of civic society and relief groups suspected to be working with the MDC leadership in receiving direct funds for support to distressed groups.

This was the latest crack at some of the banks which had last year been visited on a different mission but allegedly involving Biti’s transactions. Sources said some senior bank executives at the financial institutions that were visited have been placed under surveillance.

This includes tapping their phones, monitoring their lockers at golf clubs and social holes. At one institution, the detectives are said to have demanded the list of visitors to the founding official, list of messages and e-mail addresses of contacts.

However, the demands were ignored. The visits, according to the sources, had not been sanctioned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which supervises the financial institutions.

RBZ has its financial intelligence inspectorate and supervision teams, which monitor all activities in the banking sector.

Where they suspect malfeasance, said sources, they have to nail offending banks but in criminal cases, they have to act as the complainants, and often supported by investigations’ reports.

Against Biti, sources said so far there is no complainant — raising questions on the motives of the police probe. Biti has steadfastly maintained that he has done his tasks above board.

MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party had received information of pending arrests of Tsvangirai and Biti.

“There are plans to demoralise the rank and file of MDC by arresting and detaining MDC supporters and sympathisers. However, we know that there is no legal basis for arresting our leadership. It is just political harassment,’’ said Mwonzora.

Tsvangirai is under probe on fraud allegations and his relative Hebson Makuvise, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany on allegations of misappropriation of public funds he used to acquire and build property in the leafy suburb of Highlands.

Police are also probing Biti over the controversial $500 million windfall Zimbabwe got from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2009. They aim to arrest him if they detect any trace of fraud, sources said.

Zimbabwe got $512,3 million in special drawing rights in 2009 after the IMF injected $283 billion into the global economy to provide liquidity and boost member countries’ foreign exchange reserves at the height of the financial crisis.

Biti and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono have differed over the money. They engaged the IMF separately wanting clarification on the use of the money.

Biti said he was the “sole authority” on how the money would be used. Most of it would go to infrastructure development and exporters’ lines of credit. He could also channel some to budgetary support.

The MDC maintains that police have accelerated a programme to decimate the party ahead of elections. Two weeks ago, police fought running battles with vendors in Harare and made arrests not before they claimed party activists were masquerading as traders.

A day later, they raided the MDC regalia shop where they arrested an attendant whom the MDC claim died during violent beatings.

Last week, more than 50 MDC youths who were holding a solidarity march to pressure the release of incarcerated youth leader Solomon Madzore, were arrested and detained in various stations in the city.

Madzore and seven other party sympathisers have been languishing in remand prison over allegations that they were part of a group that led to the death of a police officer Petros Mutedza in Glen View last year.

The MDC sees police actions as a deliberate clampdown to weaken its structures. It has claimed that police are part of a wider campaign to decimate the party through arrests of top officials. Zanu PF has said it is not involved in the clampdown.

Party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has in the past dismissed the MDC claims accusing them of seeking attention. But Mwonzora told the Daily News on Sunday that there was a clique of hardliners that was bent on destroying the MDC.

“We are aware of various machinations by some factions within Zanu PF to scuttle progress within the government of national unity. The tactic is to harass senior the MDC leadership by preferring various criminal charges against them,” said Mwonzora. Daily News on Sunday

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