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Zimbabwe bans aid groups -

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Zimbabwe bans aid groups

The World Today - Thursday, 5 June , 2008 12:23:00

Reporter: Emily Bourke

ELEANOR HALL: Zimbabwe's Government has again drawn the condemnation of the international community
for its treatment of Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Just weeks before the country's run-off presidential election, which could see the end of the
Mugabe regime, police detained and questioned Mr Tsvangirai for eight hours.

While the Opposition leader is now free, Western governments have labelled the arrest as disturbing
and completely unacceptable.

And Zimbabwe is also being accused of "callous indifference" over its suspension of the aid work of
international charities.

The Government has accused the charities of political interference but human rights groups say the
Mugabe regime is using food as a weapon to shut down the Opposition's political campaign.

Emily Bourke has our report.

EMILY BOURKE: Agents from Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation picked up Morgan
Tsvangirai and his entourage at a remote road block outside Bulawayo.

The Opposition leader, his security detail and senior officials from the Movement for Democratic
Change were released without charge eight hours later, but police say they were planning to attend
an unauthorised rally.

David Coltart is a member of the MDC and Zimbabwe's shadow justice minister based in Bulawayo.

This morning he told Radio National no one in the MDC is safe because the Mugabe regime is
resorting to extreme measures to cling to power after losing the March election.

DAVID COLTART: In the course of the last three weeks, well over 30 of our members have been
murdered, many of them abducted and then brutally murdered. We've had some 25,000 people displaced.
In the course of the last 10 days we've had several MPs and senators detained and it has now
culminated in the arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai.

So it's part of a deliberate, well organised campaign spearheaded, obviously, by Robert Mugabe and
designed to prevent Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC from campaigning effectively.

EMILY BOURKE: The run-off poll is at the end of month and the MDC's Arthur Mutambara says his party
won't let Robert Mugabe take the election by fraud.

ARTHUR MUTAMBARA: If he does, we would not recognise that Government. We would never respect a
regime that comes to power through genocide and violation of our human rights. We would not also be
part of that Government.

EMILY BOURKE: The Government's crack-down is widening.

Aid agency CARE International and other humanitarian groups have been slapped with a ban on their
operations. They've been told to choose between politics and genuine humanitarian work.

CARE International's spokesman is Kieran Green.

KIERAN GREEN: It should be noted that subsequently a number of other NGOs working in Zimbabwe have
similarly been ordered to suspend their operation.

EMILY BOURKE: Is there any substance to the claim that aid workers have been interfering in the
political campaign of the Opposition?

KIERAN GREEN: CARE has a very strict policy against political activism of any kind. We do not
engage in political activism. We're fully there for humanitarian purposes. At this time we are
categorically denying that the organisation was involved in any form of political activism.

EMILY BOURKE: The suspension of aid work is likely to backfire according to Charles Matope, the
chairman of the Australian branch of the Movement for Democratic Change.

CHARLES MATOPE: It is actually going to alienate the regime of Robert Mugabe because the people of
Zimbabwe now largely depend on these aid organisations for food. So stopping them is actually going
to cause a lot of hatred for the regime of Robert Mugabe.

EMILY BOURKE: While Robert Mugabe has blamed the west for his country's hunger and accused the
international community of trying to bring about illegal regime change, the MDC's Charles Matope
says Robert Mugabe and his rhetoric are irrelevant.

CHARLES MATOPE: It is rather the military and the generals that are now deciding the political test
and the political process in Zimbabwe. It is those that we need to confront now.

EMILY BOURKE: How do you anticipate that sort of confrontation with the police and military will
unfold?

CHARLES MATOPE: The scenario that is most likely going to unfold in Zimbabwe is where the Movement
for Democratic Change will again romp to victory and then the military is going to declare that
they are not going to accept the result.

It might spell chaos, depending on how the situation is managed. But the MDC is preparing for such
a scenario.

EMILY BOURKE: Does Morgan Tsvangirai, does the MDC have support at all within the ranks of the
police and military?

CHARLES MATOPE: These certain things that have been discussed in secret within the military, the
Central Intelligence Organisation, that they have actually come to be known by the MDC, so there
are people within the military and there are people within the central intelligence itself who are
passing secret information to the MDC because they sympathise with the cause of the people of
Zimbabwe.

ELEANOR HALL: Charles Matope from the Australian branch of the Movement for Democratic Change
speaking to Emily Bourke.