The Zimbabwe government Tuesday denied it had plotted to assassinate the country’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and top officials of his party on their return home from South Africa at the weekend.
The opposition leader canceled his return at the last minute Saturday, allegedly after learning of a plot by Zimbabwe’s military to assassinate him on his return home, after a month away from the country.
Tsvangirai was due to officially launch his presidential election bid Sunday for a run-off vote due 27 June against President Robert Mugabe. But he called off his return, claiming the military had planned to assassinate him upon his arrival home.
The government, reacting to the claims for the first time Tuesday, denied the accusations, saying if any such a plot existed, it was within Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and had nothing to do with the military or the authorities.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga alleged there was a power struggle in the opposition party between Tsvangirai and MDC secretary general Tendai Biti and this threatened the former’s life. “The only person who wants to see Tsvangirai assassinated is Biti because he wants to take over leadership of the party.
“There is a plot within the MDC to get rid of Tsvangirai because the more he stays outside the country, the more he becomes irrelevant to the MDC voters,” Matonga said. “No reasonable person would think along those lines (assassination by the military). What it means is that the whole national executive of the MDC would be wiped out, but the majority, except Tsvangirai and Biti, are still in the country,” he added.
Tsvangirai, who beat Mugabe in the first round but failed to win outright, has not said when he will return home. MDC officials Tuesday said the opposition leader will soon come home, but would not be drawn into giving a specific date.