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Last Updated: Monday, 28 May 2007, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Zimbabwe to boost police for poll
Zimbabwean police (March 2007)
The police are accused of favouring the ruling party
Zimbabwe has started a massive recruitment drive to almost double numbers ahead of next year's election, a senior police officer says.

Faustino Mazango told the state-owned Herald newspaper that he wanted to have 50,000 officers for the elections, up from 29,000 at present.

Correspondents say this will be seen as the start of preparations for a crackdown on the opposition.

President Robert Mugabe has said he intends to stand for re-election.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) often accuses the police of harassing and beating its members.

Pretext

Almost 200 MDC activists were arrested on Saturday but have been released without charge.

A police spokesman had said Saturday's arrests were in connection with recent bombings around the capital, Harare.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa says that some of those arrested were beaten and have gone to hospital.

The government accuses the MDC of stirring up election violence.

It denies these charges and says they are a pretext to justify clamping down on its activities.

"We have started a massive recruitment exercise so that we have a minimum of 50,000 police officers by the time we have elections," The Herald quotes Senior Assistant Commissioner Mazango as saying.

The AFP news agency reports that many police officers are leaving the force to seek better paid work elsewhere.

In March, scores of MDC activists, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were severely assaulted in police custody, sparking international condemnation.

President Mugabe has said Mr Tsvangirai deserved to be assaulted for ignoring police warnings not to go ahead with a banned rally.


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