Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 11:13 UK

Zimbabwe scoffs at plot fantasy

Morgan Tsvangirai in Pretoria (10 May 2008)
Morgan Tsvangirai says he was cheated of victory in the first round

Zimbabwe's ruling party has poured scorn on opposition claims that the military is plotting to assassinate its presidential candidate using snipers.

"The allegations by the Tsvangirai-led MDC have no foundation whatsoever except in his own dreams," said Zanu-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai postponed a return to Zimbabwe at the weekend.

He was due to start his campaign for the 27 June presidential run-off.

The MDC, human rights groups and western diplomats say there is an orchestrated campaign to drive opposition activists and supporters out of key rural constituencies ahead of the election.

It says thousands have been assaulted and at least 40 killed.

Allies of President Robert Mugabe say the scale of the violence has been exaggerated and blames much of it on the MDC.

"MDC-T leaders are the ones who have been unleashing violence on our members, so it's not true that Zanu-PF is clamping down on opposition members," Mr Shamuyarira told the state-owned Herald newspaper.


The Herald also quotes MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa as saying the two sides could form a joint committee to investigate claims of political violence.

"In principle, we have no problem with the establishment of such a committee if Zanu-PF is being sincere."

MDC supporters who said they had been beaten by pro-government youths
Opposition supporters are being driven out of rural areas

The idea was suggested by a ruling party official last week.

He said the claims of an assassination plot were an attempt to get more money and support from western countries, which Mr Mugabe says back the MDC.

"No-one in Zanu-PF or government has any intention of killing him [Tsvangirai]."

On Monday, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said military intelligence was running a plot using 18 snipers to assassinate up to 40 senior MDC officials.

But another Zanu-PF spokesman, Bright Matonga, pointed out that most MDC leaders remained in Zimbabwe and had not been killed.

Mr Tsvangirai has been out of the country since the first round of the elections in 29 March but says he will still return to campaign for the run-off.

According to official results, Mr Tsvangirai won the presidential poll, but not by enough to avoid a run-off with President Mugabe.

He has insisted he did pass the 50% threshold and so should have been declared the outright winner.

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