Zimbabwe opposition group taps Chelgate to help push for reform

HARARE, ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has launched its first global PR and lobbying effort.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has launched its first global PR and lobbying effort.

The move has been taken to gain wider international support for fresh elections and human-rights reform in the face of intense pressure on the party and the media by the Zimbabwean government.

London-based agency Chelgate has been hired by the MDC and a group of unnamed individual backers to handle the campaign, called "Save Zimbabwe."

Target audiences are the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union - the successor body of the Organization of African Unity.

Global aid agencies are also being lobbied.

Chelgate chairman Terence Fane-Saunders is leading the account, reporting to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Chelgate will use affiliate agencies in Germany, Washington, DC, and South Africa.

The immediate aims of the campaign are for human-rights reforms and a suspension of farm-land seizures.

Politically, the MDC appears to be in limbo after losing the national election earlier this year, a result the party still disputes. Also, Tsvangirai could face jail after being accused of treason.

He is currently free on bail following the emergence of a videotape allegedly showing him plotting the downfall and possible assassination of president Robert Mugabe.

Tough restrictions on the media are in place, with critical journalists facing prosecution and expensive licenses to work in the country. Last week, Andrew Meldrum, a correspondent with the UK broadsheet The Guardian, who was recently jailed in Zimbabwe, was acquitted of the charge of reporting a falsehood.

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