Zimbabwe opposition says poll candidate arrested


Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said its candidate in a crucial parliamentary by-election has been arrested as voting was due began in the mining town of Bindura north of Harare.


Mr Jongwe said Mr Pfebve was being held at the Bindura police station. Police could not immediately be contacted for comment.

Earlier on Sunday, the MDC reported that 21 young party supporters were missing after having been abducted, apparently by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF, on Saturday evening.

The Bindura seat fell vacant when Deputy Youth and Gender Minister Mr Border Gezi was killed in a car accident in April.

The by-election pits Mr Elliott Manyika of ZANU-PF against the MDC's Mr Pfebve -a local businessman who lost to Mr Gezi in the June 2000 national election.

The vote in Bindura is seen as a key test of President Mugabe's chances of winning a new six-year term in a presidential election due next April.

"Twenty-one MDC youths are still missing after being kidnapped...around 6.30 pm yesterday (Saturday) by a group of about 90 ZANU-PF supporters," the MDC said in a statement.

It said the youths were abducted in the Musana area of Bindura constituency, where some 56,000 people are eligible to vote in a two-day by-election, which ends on Sunday evening.

Polls close at 6 p.m. Irish times and counting is expected to start on Monday.

The MDC says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai and senior party members were shot at and stoned last weekend as they drove to a rally in the town, in what the party saw as an assassination attempt.

ZANU-PF in turn has blamed most of the recent violence in Bindura on MDC youths.

Analysts say a ZANU-PF defeat in one of its traditional strongholds would be a major blow ahead of next year's presidential vote, expected to be a two-horse race between Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, and former trade unionist Mr Tsvangirai.

The MDC narrowly lost to ZANU-PF in last year's election, which followed four months of political violence that left at least 31 people dead, most of them opposition supporters.

Mr Mugabe says the MDC is a puppet of local whites and his Western opponents who, he says, want to unseat him in retaliation for his drive to seize white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.