Death threats roil Zimbabwe
Within the past two weeks, President Mugabe's party allegedly ordered the killing of opposition leaders.
Within the past two weeks, an order to assassinate four members of Zimbabwe's opposition leadership has allegedly come from within President Robert Mugabe's government.Skip to next paragraph
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The four have been warned by a source within the Army's Military Intelligence Corps that a hit-squad has been formed and given specific instructions to eliminate them.
The order, the source claims, was sanctioned by at least three members of the president's cabinet, a 26-strong grouping of stalwarts from Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
The targets, according to the source, are shadow justice and legal affairs secretary David Coltart; Chimanimani Member of Parliament, Roy Bennett; Harare Central Member of Parliament, Mike Auret; and the shadow secretary for economic affairs, Eddie Cross.
"The information has come through a trusted and well-placed source," Mr. Bennett told the Monitor. "This person claims that a team has been put in place, but the members of that team are not happy with their orders."
A spokesman for the ZANU-PF denies the claim. "The allegations are false. We have no intention of killing MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] people," he says. "We have had an election and we have been voted into power again. The MDC are just manifesting these allegations because they lost the election."
Reminded that the allegations originate from within the military intelligence corps, not the MDC, the spokesman added, "The MDC just plant these stories."
All four targets are prominent whites within the MDC whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has accused Mugabe of vote- rigging in the March election.
This isn't the first time some of these people's lives have been threatened. But since the election, 54 political murders have taken place, according to a human rights group here. For this reason, they take this threat seriously.
A respected lawyer and human rights advocate, Mr. Coltart is responsible for overseeing the MDC's legal challenges to both the results of the June 2000 parliamentary election and the March presidential election, along with a number of cases challenging the constitutionality of legislation strengthening government and presidential powers.
Coltart and Mr. Auret played important roles in exposing the so-called Gukurahundi of the 1980s, an operation in which President Mugabe's Fifth Brigade is accused of having massacred up to 30,000 civilians in Matabeleland to crush opposition.
"I am by no means paranoid and I have certainly had death threats more direct than this before," says Coltart. "But what's alarming about this case is the identity of the source, who is well placed and well trusted.
"It doesn't worry me in the sense that I would consider changing what I do, but it obviously means that I have to up my security. Given what's going on in the country, with brutality being perpetrated against our supporters every day, we have to take this as a serious warning."
He adds: "If you took the four of us out of the equation, the belief that the MDC would crumble without us is nonsense."