HARARE, Oct 24 – Armed police raided a house belonging to Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party in a new threat to the country’s faltering unity government, a top official said on Saturday.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general Tendai Biti told a news conference police officers claiming they were searching for weapons ransacked the property used for the temporary accommodation of party officials.
"Last night armed police numbering over 50 raided this residence on the pretext that they were looking for arms stolen from the police or the army," Biti said.
The raid came just over a week after the MDC suspended contact with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF over a battery of issues they said should be ironed out for their unity government to work.
Saturday’s edition of the state-owned Herald newspaper said Mugabe vowed not to give in to the MDC’s demands.
"The matters the people are complaining about in the MDC-T are that we should now, voluntarily you see, give away aspects of our authority," Mugabe was quoted as saying.
"We will not do that. They can go to any summit, any part of the world to appeal. That will not happen."
The raid came as Tsvangirai was rounding off a tour to persuade regional leaders to intervene in the stand-off.
Biti said the police descended on the property in the western suburb of Highlands and "ransacked every room and took a bunch of valuable party material from a room occupied by our organising secretary Morgan Komichi.
"They beat up the wife and sister of the caretaker before they started digging part of the garden ostensibly in search of weapons.
"The decision we took last week and the efforts we are making in government to protect public funds all have to do with these acts of frustration."
Party leaders such as Tsvangirai’s deputy Thokozani Khupe, chairman Lovemore Ncube and youth leader Thamsanqa Ncube used to occupy the house until they were given official state residences, Biti said.
Biti said the raid was the work of members of ZANU-PF and security forces opposed to the country’s power-sharing government.
There were fears the police may have "planted" weapons during the raid, he added.
The MDC and ZANU-PF have been trading accusations with the former saying ZANU-PF was steeped in its past and does not recognise the MDC as an equal partner in the unity government.
ZANU-PF blames the MDC for the slow progress of the power-sharing government, saying it should appeal for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle by Western governments.
Biti said: "We regard this as further evidence of lack of a paradigm shift on the part of ZANU-PF to treat us as an equal partner.
"We regard it as serious evidence of a few in ZANU-PF and securocrats who want us out of the government.
"On our part, this is nothing new. They will continue to plant arms and attempt to kill us but we will look the dictatorship in the eye."
Zimbabwe’s three main political rivals formed an inclusive government in February to tackle a chronic economic crisis and ease political tensions in the aftermath of a bloody presidential run-off election.
But the work of the compromise government has been stalled by unresolved issues including the appointment of provincial governors, the case of Tsvangirai’s top aide Roy Bennett and the unilateral re-appointment of central bank chief Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana.
Bennett, a white farmer Tsvangirai wants as deputy agriculture minister, was arrested on terrorism charges in February as the unity government was being sworn in.
Released on bail, his rearrest last week ahead of his trial sparked Tsvangirai’s decision to suspend the MDC’s involvement in government. He was later released on bail by the high court and his trial set for November 9.