MDC DEPUTy ARRESTED

HARARE - Zimbabwean police have arrested a deputy minister from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party for alleged theft.

HARARE - Zimbabwean police have arrested a deputy minister from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party for alleged theft.

This move could raise further tensions in the unity government.

Five MDC lawmakers have been convicted of various crimes since Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe formed a power-sharing government in February, and several more face an assortment of charges.

Deputy youth minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu is said to have stolen a cellphone belonging to Joseph Chinotimba, a staunch Mugabe ally and leader of a group of veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war, the Herald newspaper said yesterday.

It said the theft took place during a government workshop on a "National Shared Vision", at which the two shared a table.

"I can confirm Mahlangu's arrest on charges of theft, which occurred on July 17. Two other people are being charged," police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said.

"They are being charged with breaching sections of the Telecommunications Services Act - using a cellphone line without the consent of the owner."

The MDC has accused Mugabe of plotting to reduce the party's parliamentary majority through the arrest and jailing of its lawmakers.

According to Zimbabwean law, members of parliament lose their seats if they are jailed for more than six months.

Tsvangirai's MDC won 100 seats in the 2008 general election to become the biggest party in the 210-member lower House of Assembly, ahead of Mugabe's ZANU-PF with 99. A smaller MDC faction controls 10 seats and one went to an independent lawmaker. - Reuters

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