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By Brian Latham

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change denied as “absolutely ridiculous” a claim made by President Robert Mugabe‘s party that it has established militia bases in neighboring Botswana.

The allegations were made as members of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party and the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai prepare to meet for talks in South Africa tomorrow. The negotiations are the latest bid to break a stalemate that has pitted Mugabe against Tsvangirai since disputed presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29.

Two days ago, Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper, which backs Mugabe, quoted senior Zanu-PF official Patrick Chinamasa as saying the MDC plans to destabilize Zimbabwe from bases in Botswana. Chinamasa, who is Zanu-PF’s chief negotiator in talks with the MDC, alleged that unnamed western backers hoped to use Botswana as a base to undermine Zimbabwe.

“It is typical Zanu-PF tactics, but it is they who have the sinister agenda because they’re desperate,” Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman, said in a telephone interview from Harare today. “As before, they have concocted charges and created false stories to justify targeting and victimization of their political competitors.” Zanu-PF has throughout its history “made up stories of political destabilization to undermine democracy,” he said.

Botswana dismissed the claim yesterday and invited the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, a development body comprising 15 African states based in Botswana, to investigate immediately.

Zanu-PF, the MDC and a splinter group of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara will meet with SADC officials in South Africa tomorrow. In a Sept. 15 agreement brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the parties agreed to share power without specifying which of them would control each ministry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

Source: Bloomberg News

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