Robert Mugabe's pursuit of MDC MPs intensifies

Harare – Controversy over the perceived selective prosecution of MDC MPs by officials loyal to Robert Mugabe intensified this week after another MP was sentenced to a jail term that could see him ejected from parliament.

The state-controlled daily Herald reported Wednesday that MP Ernest Mudavanhu was jailed Tuesday for 18 months on charges of selling 20 tons of fertiliser given to him last year in a state programme to boost agricultural production.

He was the fourth MP of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change to be sent to jail in the last month, while a total of 16 have been charged with a variety of crimes since Tsvangirai and Mugabe set up a coalition government in February.

No senior officials of Mugabe’s former ruling Zanu-PF party have been prosecuted, despite about 200 MDC supporters being murdered and thousands tortured and displaced during his campaign for re-election last year.

"It is total victimisation," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa. "Zanu-PF is determined to erode the MDC’s majority in parliament by using the coercive apparatus of the state. It is a case of the guilty ones prosecuting the innocent."

The MDC currently holds 99 seats in the 210-seat house of assembly, four more than Zanu-PF.

That number includes two recently convicted MDC MPs, who were suspended from parliament because of their convictions, even though both are appealing against their sentences. A sentence of six months or more earns an MP ejection from parliament.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights head Irene Petras said the suspensions carried out by parliament’s chief clerk, a Zanu-PF member, were unlawful, given that the MPs appeals had yet to be heard.

"The MPs should immediately be permitted to continue attending parliament," she said.

Elsewhere, state prosecutors were accused Wednesday of ignoring court orders to produce documentary evidence against Jestina Mukoko, a leading human rights defender, who was among 16 activists and MDC officials abducted last year on charges of insurgency.

The allegations by the state last year of a conspiracy to oust Mugabe by force were discredited by Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

"The judge told the state on Monday to provide their documents immediately," her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said. "And still nothing. They have produced no evidence whatsoever."