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Police raid opposition offices in Zimbabwe, opposition calls it 'crackdown'
04/03/2008
President Robert Mugabe's government raided the offices of the main opposition movement and rounded up foreign journalists Thursday in an ominous indication that he may use intimidation and violence to keep his grip on power.
President Robert Mugabe's government raided the offices of the main opposition movement and rounded up foreign journalists Thursday in an ominous indication that he may use intimidation and violence to keep his grip on power. Police raided a hotel used by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and ransacked some of the rooms. Riot police also surrounded another hotel housing foreign journalists, and took away several of them, according to a man who answered the phone there. "Mugabe has started a crackdown," Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Tendai Biti told The Associated Press. "It is quite clear he has unleashed a war." Biti said the raid at the Meikles Hotel targeted "certain people ... including myself." Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was "safe" but canceled plans for a news conference, he said. Biti said Thursday's clampdown was a sign of worse to follow but that the opposition would not go into hiding. "You can't hide away from fascism. Zimbabwe is a small country. So we are not going into hiding. We are just going to have to be extra cautious," he said. Independent observers say their own projection based on results posted at a representative sample of polling stations showed that Tsvangirai won the most votes in Saturday's election, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Mugabe's Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said Mugabe was ready for a runoff, dashing hopes that he would bow quietly off the national stage he has dominated for 28 years. "President Mugabe is going to fight. He is not going anywhere. He has not lost," Matonga told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We are going to go hard and fight and get the majority required." On Thursday, Mugabe was shown on state television meeting African Union election observers, his first public appearance since the elections. A commission member indicated presidential results would be announced Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. But that was before the commission announced that Thursday's expected announcement of senate results was delayed because of "logistical problems." The commission said it still was receiving ballot boxes from the provinces, raising questions about where those votes had been since Saturday's elections amid charges of a plot to rig the results. Western election observers have accused Mugabe of stealing previous elections. Mugabe has ruled since his guerrilla army helped force an end to white minority rule in then-Rhodesia and bring about an independent Zimbabwe in 1980. He ordered the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms, ostensibly to return them to the landless black majority. Instead, Mugabe replaced a white elite with a black one, giving the farms to relatives, friends and cronies who allowed cultivated fields to be taken over by weeds. Today, a third of the population depends on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80 percent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than 100,000 percent and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35 years.
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