London, July 4 : Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his military backers plan to assassinate or frame dozens of opposition legislators in an attempt to consolidate power and take back control of Parliament.
The Zanu (PF) party of Mr Mugabe lost its grip on the legislature for the first time since independence when the Movement for Democratic Change took control of the Lower House and drew level in the Senate after the March elections.
Having overturned Morgan Tsvangirai's victory in the first round of the presidential vote with a brutal campaign of terror, President Mugabe's henchmen believe that they can retake Parliament using violence or trumped-up criminal charges to drive out elected opposition MPs.
The original plan was to overturn the majority by challenging opposition wins through the courts, alleging that the results had been rigged. The refusal of judges to kowtow has led the regime to resort to tried and tested methods of violence.
"We are starting to see a pattern emerge," Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesman, said. "This is a consistent, co-ordinated strategy."
Ten opposition MPs have been arrested in recent weeks and two remain in custody while others are out on bail charged with a range of offences alleging their involvement in election violence.
Sources say that the regime is setting its sights on the remaining opposition legislators arresting those it can on trumped-up charges of assault, theft and rape.
In contrast, Parliament has yet to be convened since the March 29 elections gave the MDC 100 seats against 99 for Zanu (PF), with another ten seats for the breakaway MDC faction of Arthur Mutambara and one for an independent.
The witch-hunt has sent scores of MDC MPs into hiding, which could debar them from Parliament. Under Zimbabwean law, any parliamentarian can be dismissed for failing to attend for 21 consecutive days.