`Hit list' rocks Zimbabwe

Document purports to plan a purge of public officials

April 06, 2008|By Robyn Dixon | Robyn Dixon,Los Angeles Times

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai accused Zimbabwe's authorities yesterday of preparing a "war against the people" to intimidate opposition voters in a presidential runoff.

The accusation came as a document purporting to represent the opposition's "transition" plans circulated here in the capital, prominently featuring a "hit list" of bureaucrats and security officials who would be purged.

A spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change scoffed at the authenticity of the document, saying it was merely another sortie in the regime's battle to prevent Tsvangirai from taking power by frightening the higher echelons of the bureaucracy and security services.

"Our documents would not be circulating around Harare, unless it's a CIO means to try to cause panic," the spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said, referring to the intelligence agency.

As Tsvangirai attempts the delicate maneuver of reassuring military and intelligence chiefs that they would not be targeted should he become president, the document sent out precisely the opposite message, undermining his efforts to appeal to the generals who have long supported President Robert G. Mugabe.

The election saw the ruling ZANU-PF party lose its majority for the first time in its 28 years of power. The opposition has kept intense pressure on Mugabe to leave office, but the ruling party decided to fight a runoff in the presidential campaign if final returns gave no candidate an outright majority. It also demanded a recount in 16 parliamentary seats. When opposition lawyers tried to go to court for an order compelling the release of the final election results yesterday, they were blocked.

Tsvangirai, who claims to have won the presidential vote outright with no need for a runoff, said yesterday that the regime was preparing to mobilize armed militias to intimidate voters.

"In the runoff, violence will be the weapon," Tsvangirai told reporters. "Mugabe must accept that the country needs to move forward. He cannot hold the country to ransom. He is the problem, not the solution."

But he said the opposition would not attempt to prosecute Mugabe on charges related to his rule and would offer a guarantee of safety.

The purported "transition" document, portrayed as having been written by a senior adviser to Tsvangirai, said top commanders, the head of the intelligence services, the police commissioner, the chief justice and the Reserve Bank governor would be fired immediately after a Tsvangirai administration took power.

Jonathan Moyo, an independent lawmaker who cooperated with the MDC in the election, said that the document was hugely damaging to the MDC.

"It has added to a raging fire," said the lawmaker, who said that the transition document was being passed around among frightened Harare bureaucrats.

Chamisa said the opposition had no plans to target individuals, but conceded that the document was damaging.

"Of course the strategy [of the regime] is to cause panic," he said.

"We don't have any documents targeting individuals," he said.

Robyn Dixon writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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