MDC in outcry over military deployment on the back of Mugabe's health woes

ZIMBABWE’s Movement for Democratic Change, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said armed security services have been deployed in rural areas around the country, calling it “a plot to inculcate a culture of fear.”

“The MDC urges the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the international community to take note of the crackdown on the people of Zimbabwe by lawless allies” of President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front, the MDC said in an e-mailed response to questions from Harare today.

Mugabe is currently in Malaysia where he is recovering after an operation on his prostate gland, the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported yesterday, citing unidentified diplomats in Harare and South Africa.

Elections are due to take place in the southern African country later this year.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a unity government in February 2009 under an agreement brokered by the SADC. It joined the MDC with Zanu-PF after a 2008 parliamentary election was won narrowly by the MDC. Tsvangirai pulled out of the subsequent presidential election, citing violence against his supporters.

“Dozens” of people were injured last week when soldiers loyal to Mugabe assaulted villagers in Gutu, a district in the southern Zimbabwean province of Masvingo, the MDC said today. In addition, more than 30 people were injured and shops forced to close when troops beat people in Jenjera in the province, according to the party.

Official Abducted

The MDC’s secretary for Masvingo South, Elson Mutonhori, was abducted at gunpoint by a senior army officer after Mutonhori displayed MDC regalia at his home, the party said.

Zimbabwe’s Defense Ministry, which is controlled by Zanu-PF veteran Emmerson Mnangagwa, didn’t answer calls to its switchboard when Bloomberg sought comment today.

Last month, Mugabe said his party should end Zimbabwe’s coalition government because “some are dragging their feet on elections.” Tsvangirai wants a referendum on a new constitution before elections are held.

Mugabe also said Zimbabwe’s leadership would speak out against violence in any forthcoming vote.

“We want to get to people that our word, our command, says no to violence,” he said. “That doesn’t mean everyone will listen to us.”

Zimbabwe has the world’s second-biggest reserves of platinum, after neighboring South Africa. Rio Tinto Plc, based in London and Johannesburg-based Anglo Platinum Ltd. operate mines in the country.