MDC victory after Zimbabwe court overturns rally ban

The High Court in Zimbabwe's capital Harare on Saturday overturned a police ban on campaign rallies by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the party's lawyer said.

"We have obtained an order lifting the ban on the MDC rallies," Alec Muchadehama told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Saturday evening.

Police on Friday banned the MDC from holding four planned rallies as part of Tsvangirai's campaigning in second-round presidential elections on June 27.

The MDC greeted Saturday's court ruling with caution.

"We are obviously happy with the ruling and we now await whether the police will not disrupt our campaign plan," the MDC's director of information Luke Tamborinyoka said.

The High Court on Saturday also heard an application by lawyers for arrested MDC MP Eric Matinenga for his release.

Matinenga, a prominent advocate, was arrested Saturday in Harare for the second time in as many weeks on charges of inciting violence.

The MDC believes Matinenga is being victimized for successfully securing an interim order from the High Court in May, forcing the army to withdraw from rural areas in the run-up to the presidential run-off election.

Military members have been fingered in a brutal campaign of violence by Mugabe supporters against opposition supporters since March that have killed at least 60 people.

Matinenga's arrest and transport to a police station in his eastern Buhera West constinuency were "just calculated and systematic harassment by the regime," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

Earlier this week Tsvangirai was detained twice by police while attempting to campaign, once for around nine hours. On both occasions he was released without charge.

A police spokesman said Matinenga had been rearrested because "We had not correctly charged him initially."

Mugabe, 84, is seeking a sixth term as leader in June, despite taking fewer votes for president than Tsvangirai in March.

The crackdown against the MDC and its supporters forms part of a wider state clampdown on voices of dissent.

After ordering all non-governmental organizations and aid agencies to suspend their field work on Thursday the government is now demanding they all re-register.

"We have asked them to reapply for operating permits so that we can vet them and determine which ones are the fronts for political interests," Bright Matonga, the deputy information minister, was quoted by the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying Saturday.

The government accuses some NGOs, including British-based agency Care International, of openly campaigning for the MDC in the last election - allegations Care has rubbished.

Matonga claimed the US government had channelled some 6 million dollars through NGOs to destabilize already economically wrecked Zimbabwe.

"They (NGOs) have been going around the country distributing food; claiming to be helping the needy but they tell the communities they visit that they will not get any more food aid if they vote for Zanu PF and President Mugabe," Matonga told the paper.

The ban on NGO work in a country where the United Nations estimates a third of the population, 4 million people, is in need of food aid, has provoked an international outcry.

Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is no longer able to feed itself. The Mugabe-backed seizure by his allies of thousands of white-owned farms since 2000 has been largely blamed for the situation, dpa reported.

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