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Zimbabwe: Arrest of MDC Parliamentarians Highlights Fragile ‘Unity’

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Zimbabwe: Arrest of MDC Parliamentarians Highlights Fragile ‘Unity’

Posted by Rebecca Brocato on August 20, 2009

In Zimbabwe political unity suffered another blow yesterday when Zimbabwean police officials arrested 10 parliamentarians who are members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement of Democratic Change. The officials were arrested while visiting a senior official within the finance ministry, which is a notoriously corrupt stronghold of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

Reuters reported that those arrested were at the office attempting to investigate the current status of MP allowances as well as a vehicle loan scheme. Tafadzwa Mugabe, the lawyer for those detained told AFP that the officials were “detained for causing disturbances at the offices belonging to the permanent secretary at the ministry of finance.” The MPs were released but the charges against them remain.

While the details of the circumstances surrounding the arrests are unclear, the possible political motivations behind them seem hard to ignore. Throughout the summer, MDC politicians have been arrested without proper cause by police forces controlled by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Continued harassment of the MDC underscores the fragility of the political situation in Zimbabwe, where a tenuous unity government attempts to lurch forward with reforms in the midst of continued rampant corruption.

Writing for the New York Times, Celia Dugger noted that many MDC party members believe these arrests are connected to the country’s nascent constitutional process. Currently, the MDC has a small majority inside the Zimbabwean parliament and arrests of MDC parliamentarians have put that majority in jeopardy throughout the summer. The insinuation then, of course, is that ZANU-PF officials might be attempting to put themselves back in the majority as negotiations begin in parliament. This latest case illustrates in stark terms the difficulty of attempting to cultivate lasting change through a power sharing arrangement  in which so many intransigent and unpalatable characters still have jobs.