March 13 2007 at 04:35AM
By Peta Thornycroft
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 54, can hardly see out
of his eyes, and could neither eat nor speak hours after he was arrested and
then beaten by Zimbabwe police.
He is in a lice-infested, urine-soaked cell at a police station in
Borrowdale, Harare - a five-minute drive from President Robert Mugabe's
opulent Chinese-styled mansion.
Veteran protester and lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, 40, is lying in agony
in the government's Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare - with a broken wrist
and extensive bruises after policemen beat him to a pulp.
Arthur Mutambara, 39, Zimbabwe's other main opposition leader, has not
been seen by his lawyer or his family since he was detained early on Sunday
when he tried to drive through a police roadblock to attend a prayer rally
in the Highfield township, south-west of the city centre.
Many families are in the same boat. Their loved ones are also
incarcerated in Harare's filthy police stations, having been detained after
several brutal street battles.
Throughout Sunday night and Monday, lawyers, families and political
and human rights activists tried to find out where about 100 people who had
attended the rally were being held.
"They move them around on purpose, split them up, and lie to us so we
don't find them," said opposition MP Priscilla Misihairabwe-Mushonga.
Lawyers in Harare, battling judicial delays, were trying to get a writ
of habeas corpus out of the Harare High Court on Monday to ensure that none
of their clients had been killed.
"So far we have seen none of them," said Harrison Nkomo.
"We are very worried."
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena gave a long interview to state
journalists after the rally was blocked by hundreds of riot policemen,
claiming that about 200 youths from the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change had attacked the police and injured three of them.
"The three police officers were attacked by an unruly mob of some 200
MDC thugs who were using children as shields," he said, explaining why
police had shot dead Gift Tandare, an MDC activist.
A fellow activist saw Tandare shot. "They had been firing at us for a
long time and throwing teargas and trying to stop us from getting to the
"We were very angry, why not be angry at this cruel regime? We were
picking up the teargas and throwing it back at them.
"We charged them and then they fired. We saw he was dead, but we
couldn't get in to pick up his body, so the police took it."
Tsvangirai who helped form the MDC in 2000, has been charged, tried
and acquitted of treason, and been arrested several times.
There have been numerous assassination attempts against him.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on
March 13, 2007
JANE FIELDS IN HARARE
POLICE in Zimbabwe tried to kill Morgan Tsvangirai, the country's main
opposition leader, his party claimed yesterday.
He was arrested on Sunday in the impoverished Highfield township in the
capital, Harare, where he had gone for a prayer rally. Dozens of other
members of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were also held.
Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, the MDC's secretary for international affairs, said
Mr Tsvangirai had been so badly beaten that police had rushed him to
hospital in the early hours of yesterday morning. He is reported to have
fainted three times while police were beating him.
He had "a very deep wound" to his head and was having difficulty eating and
"could hardly talk", Prof Mukonoweshuro told The Scotsman.
He said the attacks to Mr Tsvangirai's head showed police clearly "wanted to
Mr Tsvangirai's wife Susan was allowed to take him food at 6am and had
confirmed her husband's injuries, he said.
The MDC leader later was released from hospital and returned to a police
Many other opposition figures were also reportedly assaulted. Lovemore
Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, had his hand
broken in two places, according to Prof Mukonoweshuro. Arthur Mutambara, a
rival opposition leader, was also arrested and his whereabouts was still
unknown yesterday afternoon. There were fears that several top officials had
been taken to Goromonzi, a notorious torture centre.
Police said Mr Tsvangirai and his colleagues had been arrested because they
had "incited people to engage in violence".
Rioting broke out in Highfield after Sunday's arrests, and one man was shot
dead by police. He was named as Gift Tandare, a married father of three.
Three police officers were said to have been injured and state media claimed
rampaging MDC supporters had used children as human shields. A car carrying
reporters from the state-controlled Herald newspaper was stoned by a gang of
Trouble spread to the nearby suburb of Waterfalls, where youths stormed a
vehicle owned by the state bus company and allegedly stole mobile phones.
One pregnant woman was so frightened that she is reported to have
Tensions remained high in Harare yesterday. Armed riot police manned First
Street, the main shopping artery.
The Save Zimbabwe Campaign - the organiser of Sunday's rally - said that it
was "utterly shocked at the heavy-handed manner in which police quashed what
was meant to be a peaceful prayer session". A spokesman said: "The death of
Tandare, arrests and torture of Save Zimbabwe Campaign activists open yet
another sad chapter in the country's unfolding history. It is unfortunate
that precious lives continue to be lost for the furtherance of selfish
Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, appears to have shelved
plans to postpone the country's presidential elections until 2010.
They are due next year, but Mr Mugabe, 83, had said he wanted them pushed
back so they coincided with parliamentary polls. There was huge resistance
to his plans, not only from the MDC but also from his ruling party's
officials who are rumoured to be growing tired of their leader.
In a surprise announcement, he said he was now willing for presidential
elections to be held in 2008. He still wants to stand for re-election.
By Peta Thorneycroft in Harare
Last Updated: 3:38am GMT 13/03/2007
Zimbabwe police threatened the "standards used in war" against
activists, saying a "war situation" existed in the country after violent
weekend clashes, a lawyer told the Harare high court yesterday.
Irene Petros, speaking at an emergency hearing over the arrest of
Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, and 100 other activists, said
police had issued the threat after she had unsuccessfully attempted to see
some of the arrested, many of whom had sustained serious injuries.
One woman, Grace Kwinjeh, was described as having had "her right ear
nearly severed from her head," while she was in police custody.
Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was
reported to have been badly injured, and was unable to eat or speak.
Judge Chinembiri Bhunu ordered medical attention for Mr Tsvangirai and
the others and told police to allow them access to their lawyers.
Mr Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara, the president of the other faction of
the divided MDC, and the activists were arrested on Sunday when they tried
to attend a prayer rally in a poor Harare township on Sunday. One man was
killed when police opened fire.
March 13, 2007
Mugabe lashes out as conditions worsen in Zimbabwe
Even public prayer is now a political offence in Zimbabwe. A rally called by
church, opposition and civic groups to pray for an end to Zimbabwe's
deepening political and economic crisis was thwarted by police riot squads,
who shot and beat those taking part. Dozens of opposition figures were
arrested, including Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic
Change. Many were beaten and allegedly tortured in police custody; Mr
Tsvangirai is reported to be in "bad shape" after passing out three times.
Far from being ashamed of such police brutality, the Mugabe Government
appears keen to publicise the torture: the beaten men were put on parade at
the police station to intimidate Mr Mugabe's courageous opponents.
They have not been intimidated, however. "Our just, legitimate and peaceful
struggle will not cease," a member of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign said. They
must be prepared for repression, however. The worse things grow, the more
the elderly dictator fears that the tipping point is approaching when even
his closest party cronies and the apparatus of repression will turn against
him. His tactic, common to all tyrants who fear a loss of control, is to
redouble repression and step up arbitrary intimidation in order to cower
those struggling simply to survive. The crackdown on the MDC and other open
opposition groups is aimed just as much at wavering police recruits, angry
civil servants, pampered "veterans" who can no longer be insulated from the
country's economic collapse and even stalwarts of Zanu (PF), whose support
he still needs to maintain himself in power.
Delusion, however, now appears to be the leit-motiv of Mr Mugabe's rule. As
the country burns under an inflation rate of 1,700 per cent - the highest in
the world - and 80 per cent unemployment, the 83-year-old leader fiddles
with constitutional niceties, looking at ways to prolong his term until 2010
and expressing his humble willingness to serve again "if asked".
Zimba-bweans unable to find work or feed their families must wonder why he
bothers with this charade. No one is under any illusion that Mr Mugabe is
anything other than a vindictive tyrant, determined to remain in power for
life. For him, a voluntary surrender of power is unthinkable.
The weekend attacks on the Opposition have been condemned by Britain as
"violent and unwarranted". Washington has echoed this, citing "brutal and
unwarranted" actions against people exercising democratic rights. But, as
usual, there has been embarrassed silence from Zimbabwe's neighbours. And as
Ghana's President Kufuor begins a state visit to London to celebrate 50
years of independence, the African Union, whose presidency Ghana holds this
year, has said nothing about the terrible record of Zimbabwe, also a former
British colony, since independence.
Mr Mugabe relishes criticism in the West to bolster his claims that British
colonialism is to blame for his country's ills, but condemnation by fellow
Africans, especially by South Africa, may dent his puffed-up amour-propre.
Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth. But as the other 53
members celebrate Commonwealth Day, they should not ignore its suffering.
The Save Zimbabwe Campaign needs help, before it, and the country, are
suffocated by a monstrous tyranny.
Tuesday March 13, 2007
Predicting the end of Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe has always been a
risky business. The end has been nigh for at least seven years, but Mr
Mugabe has outfoxed friend and foe alike. But the reaction of riot police on
Sunday to a small prayer meeting organised in Harare by opposition, church
and civic groups was predictable. One protester was shot dead and dozens of
opposition activists were beaten, some say tortured, in custody. Among them
was Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who
was yesterday reported to have been taken to hospital with head wounds.
It is clear that the crisis engulfing the country is accelerating. But this
has more to do with raging inflation than an opposition which is itself
badly divided. Once one of the richest countries in Africa, Zimbabwe holds
the record for having the world's fastest-shrinking peace-time economy,
according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), whose report provides a
sensible plan for transition. The economy has diminished by 40% since 1998,
unemployment has swollen by 80%, and inflation is expected to reach over
4,000% by the end of the year.
There are reports of disaffection in the junior ranks of the police and
army, who complain about being paid less than the hired hands dispatched to
beat up opposition groups. There are problems for Mr Mugabe too within
Zanu-PF, where his plan to extend his mandate, which was due to expire in
2008 to 2010, met unprecedented resistance at December's annual conference.
On Sunday Mr Mugabe was quoted as saying that he would go back to his
original plan and contest the election in 2008 "if the party says so".
It may not. There are three factions inside Zanu-PF: a loyalist group still
prepared to back the 83-year-old president and two groups under the
leadership of a presidential aspirant, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and a retired
general, Solomon Mujuru, who is the husband of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru.
They both want Mr Mugabe to stand down next year, so that their party can
maintain political control.
It is not written in stone that Zimbabwe's sufferings are destined to
continue, once Mr Mugabe is told that enough is enough. Here the analogy
with the last days of Mobutu's reign in Zaire, made this month by the ICG,
is not strictly accurate. Zimbabwe's infrastructure, though in a state of
total collapse, still exists. So do its housing and farms. It has a
potentially large source of foreign currency from expat Zimbabweans, and a
post-Mugabe regime could benefit from a windfall of foreign aid. But he has
to go first, and the sooner the better.
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 13/03/2007
If Margaret Beckett has uttered anything of note on the subject of
Zimbabwe since she began her undistinguished tenure at the Foreign Office,
it has escaped our attention. Even the beating up of Morgan Tsvangirai,
leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and the shooting
dead of one of his supporters during an attempt to hold a political rally on
Sunday, have failed to elicit any words of condemnation from our Trappist
Foreign Secretary. Given this country's moral responsibility as the former
colonial power, such silence is unforgivable.
So, too, is the refusal of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki to use
his political leverage with Robert Mugabe to try to halt the political and
economic catastrophe that is engulfing Zimbabwe. Mr Mbeki plays down the
scale of the crisis in that benighted country and claims that the only
reason there is concern in the West is that "a handful of white people died
and white people were deprived of their property".
Such racist nonsense is offensive and wrong. The overwhelming majority
of those suffering because of Mr Mugabe's unhinged policies are black. The
country's economic collapse - inflation running at 1,800 per cent,
unemployment at 80 per cent - hits black people hardest. The crisis in the
health and education services also bears down heaviest on the black
In the past five years, the infant mortality rate has almost doubled.
Famine is now a real threat in a country that was once the envy of Africa.
Most of this wretchedness can be traced to the systematic destruction of
commercial agriculture through the seizure of white-owned farms, which has
destroyed the country's biggest export earner and sent the economy into a
Mr Mbeki should not be allowed to get away with his lethal
complacency. The British Government must exert the maximum political
pressure on South Africa to show some leadership. For reasons of
self-interest, if nothing else, the republic cannot continue to stand idly
by while a cataclysm engulfs its neighbour, with potentially fearsome
consequences across the region.
The MDC expresses its deep concern and outrage regarding the events of the
last few days in which political leaders, civic leaders and supporters have
been arrested, tortured and denied access to lawyers and medical treatment.
The murder by state agents of Gift Tandare marks another very disturbing
development and is condemned.
It is important to recall that the opposition has a demonstrable record in
the last 7 years of holding peaceful political rallies, and the church even
more so. It is Zanu PF that has a record of violence. Accordingly the police
general ban on political meetings for 3 months is unjustifiable in the first
However the general ban on all political meetings throughout Zimbabwe is
also unlawful. As bad as POSA is, it does not allow the police to issue
widespread banning orders as it has sought to do. Notwithstanding the
provisions of POSA, the Zimbabwean Constitution is quite clear regarding the
right that Zimbabweans have to demonstrate peaceably. POSA is clear that
the police are obliged to consider each case on its merits and it cannot
lightly disregard the fundamental right contained in the Constitution for
people to demonstrate and meet peaceably. What the police have in effect
done is issue a general ban reminiscent of the State of Emergency which
ended in 1990. There is no declared State of Emergency and to that extent
the police have acted completely unlawfully in purporting to issue a general
ban as they have done.
Even if the regime is of a mind to argue that it does have this general
power it should be reminded that the provisions of POSA used by the ZANU PF
regime to deny people fundamental constitutional rights are fascist laws no
different to those used by the white minority regime in terms of LOMA. They
were bad laws then and are no different now. LOMA did not prevent the
legitimate demands of the people from being realised and in the same way
POSA will not succeed ultimately in denying the people their rights. The
sooner the regime realises that these laws will not solve the Zimbabwean
crisis the better. The regime is advised to repeal POSA and then sit down
with all Zimbabweans to negotiate a solution to the calamitous situation
afflicting our nation. The situation has now been greatly exacerbated by the
murder of Gift Tandare, the unlawful arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur
Mutambara and many other leaders and activists.
The denial access by lawyers to those detained and the reports that many of
those detained have been severely assaulted is a very serious development.
These two breaches of rights usually go hand in hand - when lawyers can't
get in to see their clients law enforcement agencies the world over feel
they have licence to torture. That is the very reason why the United States
Supreme Court last year, and very correctly, ruled that the denial of access
to lawyers in Guantanamo Bay offended the American Constitution.
Sadly this practice is routine in Zimbabwe and has been for decades. In
September last year the practice was employed against Trade Union leaders.
Our demands made then that the practice end were ignored. This practice must
stop immediately and those responsible for both the denial of access and
torture must be identified, rooted out of whatever state agency they belong
to and prosecuted.
A specific call is made on the Attorney General to investigate these reports
of denial of access and torture. It is the Attorney General's responsibility
to ensure that Zimbabwe's Constitution is obeyed by all, especially by state
agents and the police in particular. We expect that he will call for an
urgent investigation into these allegations and that he will vigorously
prosecute those responsible for these outrages if the allegations are found
to be correct.
When a similar call was made last September the Attorney General ignored
that call. No prosecutions have been brought by the Attorney General against
those responsible, despite video tape evidence clearly showing the identity
of those responsible for the unlawful assaults and torture. If the Attorney
General ignores our demands made again now he will be held personally
responsible. It is well known that impunity fosters torture; if those
responsible for torture are not brought to book they are bound to torture
again. It is only the Attorney general who has the Constitutional power to
bring the culprits to book.
In any democratic country if subordinates are found guilty of serious human
rights allegations the Minister under whom they fall take responsibility and
resign. This is not the first time that the police, CIO and youth brigade in
Zimbabwe have been accused of torture - there have been persistent reports
(many backed by irrefutable medical evidence) over the last few years of
these agencies being engaged in acts of torture.
Article 2 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
degrading Treatment or Punishment states:
"Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial
or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its
It is clear to all reasonable people that the ZANU PF regime has failed to
comply with this basic international obligation. In particular the Minister
of Home Affairs, Minister Kembo Mohadi, has failed to prevent torture being
used by the police. He is deeply aware of the issue because it has been
raised on several occasions with him in Parliament. He should also be
acutely empathetic because he himself suffered torture at the hands of this
regime in the 1980s. In all the circumstances we call upon him to resign.
It would appear as if the Zanu PF regime is prepared to defy the world and
use whatever means to frustrate legitimate expressions of opposition to its
misrule of Zimbabwe. The torture and denial of access by lawyers and doctors
to Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and the rest of our colleagues,
coming so soon after the similar treatment meted out to Trade Union leaders
last year is a clear sign that Robert Mugabe himself and other Zanu PF
leaders feel they can act with impunity.
With this in mind the ZANU PF regime is reminded that "torture is an
international crime over which international law and the parties to the
Torture Convention have given universal jurisdiction to all courts wherever
the torture occurs". We are keeping records of those responsible for these
heinous acts and will use all the means at our disposal to bring the
culprits to book.
All those responsible for these outrages over the last few days must
understand that they are on notice - these acts will not be forgotten and we
will use the full force of international law in future to bring all those
responsible to justice.
It is now time for those Zanu PF members who quietly disagree with what is
happening and other regional leaders to speak out against this vile conduct.
Mere silence amounts to condonation.
Martin Luther King once said "Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an
unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of
justice". That is precisely what we are doing and as sure as day follows
night a real order of justice will be brought to Zimbabwe. But it is
difficult for those struggling within Zimbabwe to do so alone. Apartheid was
not ended solely through the efforts of South African patriots; it was
achieved through their concerted efforts which were supported by massive
international support and action. That support and action has largely been
missing and the international community has allowed Zimbabwe to degenerate
into the grave crisis it is in today.
It is high time the international community acted to assist those trying to
bring about a new order of democracy in Zimbabwe. There has been far too
much talk and far too little action from the international community. What
is required is urgent, vigorous, proactive diplomatic activity by Southern
African nations in conjunction with international institutions such as the
UN and EU.
David Coltart MP
Shadow Minister of Justice
13th March 2007
By Daniel Howden, Deputy Foreign Editor
Published: 13 March 2007
Why are we asking this now?
Robert Mugabe's regime has been using increasingly violent tactics to
prevent any form of protest. With the economy in freefall, unemployment
spiralling, real inflation approaching 2,000 per cent and no money to pay
the security forces, all public protests have been banned. Life expectancy
for women has now dropped below 34 and millions of Zimbabwean men have
crossed the border into South Africa to find work and food. In this
situation the government is determined not to give the opposition any kind
of focal point. Recently there has been a new mood of defiance and the
ensuing flash points have refocused international attention. This culminated
in a protest rally at the weekend and the arrest and apparent torture of the
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
So how strong is Mugabe's grip on power?
Twenty-seven years after sweeping to power in the country's first free
elections the man who trained in Ghana to be a schoolteacher is still his
country's supreme power. Aged 83 he has a Fidel Castro-like ability to speak
for hours without notes and sit through interminable Senate sessions without
pause. He has divided and ruled in the corridors of power since the end of
the liberation struggle and seen off every rival. Even those who hate him,
who are legion, admit that he is an exceptional tactician with extraordinary
determination and self-discipline. However, with each year that passes and
each milestone of collapse that is reached, the remaining threads of his
legitimacy fall from him. And others start to imagine what their role might
be after Mugabe.
Will he face a challenge from within the ruling party?
After decades of concentrating wealth and power in their own hands Zanu-PF
leaders are haunted by its possible loss in a succession crisis. The result
is that the party has never been so divided. For almost the first time
Mugabe has not been able to impose his will. A proposal to "harmonise"
presidential and parliamentary elections - in effect extending his term from
2008 to 2010 - was not backed unanimously. While there are many ambitious
lieutenants, the two main contenders for succession are Emmerson Mnangagwa
and Joyce Mujuru. Mnangagwa is his favoured candidate, according to sources.
Mnangagwa oversaw the massacre of 25,000 Ndebele in the notorious
Gukuruhundi campaign of the 1980s. But Mnangagwa, thought to be Zimbabwe's
richest politician, faces fraud allegations through the state-controlled
press, fed by Solomon Mujuru, the former army chief and husband of the
Vice-President, Joyce. She acquired a fearsome reputation during the war, as
well as the nom de guerre Spill Blood, and added to that power base during
the land invasions. What neither offer is any cause for optimism over a
change in direction.
What about the opposition?
While the country is practically bankrupt, the Central Intelligence Office,
(CIO) functioning as Mugabe's secret police, enjoys a budget many times that
of the health service. The CIO has been ruthlessly effective at sowing
confusion and mistrust in the opposition camp and credited with forcing a
damaging split in the main party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
After leading his party to two heavily disputed electoral defeats, the
former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai now heads a divided MDC, after a
fallout over a proposed boycott of Senate elections.
The pro-Senate wing is led by Arthur Mutambara, an MIT-trained academic, who
has returned to Zimbabwe and re-entered politics for the first time since
being an active student leader. Mutambara has drawn support from many in the
country through his appearance to be a political novice. Mr Tsvangirai,
however, remains the one man with the charisma and public support to rattle
the regime. Questions have been asked over his willingness to act after two
exhausting treason trials left him facing the death penalty and house arrest
for years at a time.
The result of this division has been a falling away in support for MDC and
an increasing reliance on broader alliances such as the Save Zimbabwe
coalition that called the weekend rally. These groups, comprised of civil
society organisations, religious leaders and trade unions preaching
non-violent protest, have proven harder to silence. For much of the past
three years, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube has been
Mugabe's most voluble and bravest critic.
What can other governments do?
Mugabe has comfortably outmanoeuvred Commonwealth leaders, international
organisations and the British Royal Family alike. He realised early in the
economic downturn of the 1990s that a return to the narrative of colonial
struggle was the best way to hide the deficiencies of his own regime.
Likewise, the concentration of international media on the fate of white
farmers during the land invasions in 2000, enabled the regime to say that
nothing has changed and the West only cared about the fate of whites.
The World Food Programme has been forced to hand over its operations to Zanu
control or leave millions to starve. What is needed is a subtle policy of
containment and encouragement of neighbouring leaders to use their influence
to avert a catastrophe on their own borders.
Also, the arrival of China in African affairs has removed many of the
remaining levers of influence in London and Washington. Much of the West's
moral capital has been spent in Iraq and in short-sighted foreign policy in
Why does South Africa remain silent about the crisis?
Any analysis of Mugabe's relationship with his South African counterpart,
Thabo Mbeki, must start in their shared history of struggle against white
minority government. Mugabe's mantle as liberator is as powerful to many in
southern Africa as Nelson Mandela's is to the rest of the world. Mbeki is
thought to be close to the Zimbabwean leader and has few of Mandela's
reservations about his northern neighbour.
South Africa is itself experiencing the end of the liberation honeymoon and
land reform, managed for political rather than economic purposes, threatens
to unravel its own economy as it did in Zimbabwe. Only the influx of
millions of Zimbabwean immigrants and accompanying resentment of their
presence seems to offer the political incentive to the South African
leadership to act against a former comrade in arms.
Is the game up for Zimbabwe's dictator?
* Mugabe is 83 and can no longer count on the unanimous support of the
* His own party is divided and even long term allies are manoeuvring for
* The increasing violence against protesters is evidence of panic at the top
of the regime
* He has declared his intention to run for office again, whether next year
or in 2010
* The opposition is hopelessly fractured and the state has a monopoly on
* There is no obvious alternative within the ruling party, which has
descended into bitter factionalism
March 13, 2007
FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer has condemned the brutal suppression of a
rally in Zimbabwe by the Government of President Robert Mugabe.
During last weekend's rally, Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai
is reported to have suffered head injuries after being taken into police
custody. Rights groups allege other politicians have been tortured.
Police detained Mr Tsvangirai and dozens of other Opposition figures and
shot dead a man while crushing a prayer meeting organised in defiance of a
ban on political rallies.
Political tensions, which have been brewing over the soaring cost of living
and Mr Mugabe's increasingly controversial rule, erupted when riot squads
fought opposition youths in the capital for the second time in a month.
Mr Downer said the news was further evidence of the regime's utter disregard
for basic democratic principles and the human rights of the people of
"These latest arrests form part of an intensifying cycle of repression by
the Mugabe regime," Mr Downer said.
"They are clear signs of the Mugabe Government's desperation to cling to
power in the face of its growing unpopularity amongst the people of
He said the Mugabe Government's disastrous policies had crippled a once
thriving economy, leaving Zimbabweans with hyper-inflation and over 80 per
cent of the population unemployed and living below the poverty line.
"I call on the Government of Zimbabwe to release those arrested, to revoke
the ban on political activity and to implement immediate political and
economic reforms," Mr Downer said.
Government of Canada
March 12, 2007 (6:15 p.m. EDT)
The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, today made the following statement
concerning the violence that the Zimbabwean police force used against
participants in the gathering organized by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign on
March 11 in Harare:
"Canada condemns the Government of Zimbabwe's continued disregard for
democratic principles and fundamental freedoms, such as the right to
assembly, and its increasingly violent repression of its citizens. The use
of ammunition against innocent and unarmed people is an unacceptable
response to the current economic crisis and the suffering of Zimbabweans. I
deplore the brutal police crackdown that led to the death of a Movement for
Democratic Change supporter and injured several others. I extend my
condolences to the families of the victims.
"Canada calls for the immediate release of opposition Movement for
Democratic Change party leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara,
senior party officials and National Constitutional Assembly Chairman
Lovemore Madhuku, as well as all Zimbabweans arrested during this police
operation. I urge the Government of Zimbabwe to provide immediate access to
appropriate medical treatment and to live up to its responsibilities for the
safety of the detainees. Canada denounces the brutal arrest, detention and
alleged torture in custody of these peaceful protestors. We also call for
the revocation of the three-month ban on rallies and demonstrations.
"We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to abide by the Harare Principles and
respect the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the human
rights of the people of Zimbabwe. The crisis of governance in Zimbabwe can
only be overcome through dialogue, with the broad participation of
By Mary Revesai
Last updated: 03/13/2007 12:49:26
IF A man is told often enough by enough people for a long enough time that
he is the embodiment of perfection - wise, strong, infallible and possibly
immortal - he begins to believe it.
For decades, Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has been used to having people
licking his boots and singing his praises. He has relished hearing the Nolan
Makombes and Tony Garas of this world comparing him to Jesus Christ, the Son
of God. Others like Didymus Mutasa and some church leaders have suggested
that Mugabe was anointed by God to rule Zimbabwe for the rest of his life.
He has never found this grovelling embarrassing. Wherever Mugabe has gone,
he has seen his portrait gazing down benevolently on his subjects from the
walls of buildings, be they government, parastatal, municipal, business or
educational establishments. Upon his frequent departures from and arrivals
at Harare International Airport, a sea of faces waves him off or welcomes
He is used to frenzied and ingratiating singing by men and women resplendent
in patriotic garb bearing his portrait. The sound of sirens announcing his
ubiquitous, grotesque and fuel-guzzling motorcade are like an addictive drug
that he can't just give up.
Psychologist Charles Horton Cooley described the kind of image a person has
of himself as the result of the responses and reactions of others as the
'looking glass self' or an idealised picture of oneself.
But as Edgar Tekere's biography, A Lifetime of Struggle, has shown through
revelations about Mugabe's past, this idealised self-image does not always
bear any relation to objective facts. The book, which I have not read, has
raised Mugabe's hackles in a way nothing has ever done before because it
has, so to speak, shattered the looking glass through which Zimbabweans,
despite their objective experiences and the evidence of their own eyes, are
expected to view the man who has controlled their fate for almost 30 years.
And if Mugabe's plans to cling to power by standing as a candidate in
presidential elections next year succeed, Zimbabweans will be expected to
endure more deprivation and repression as the octogenarian makes what he
knows is a last ditch attempt to impose his idealised legacy on the nation.
Tekere has been crucified by Zanu PF spin doctors and apologists for daring
to burst the bubble of Mugabe's infallibility and invincibility. Those who
have read the book have questioned certain things and pointed out Tekere's
own human weaknesses. This is as it should be. The point remains however,
that Tekere's human frailties and whatever inaccuracies, distortions or
exaggerations are found in his book, do not detract from the impact of the
publication of his biography on Zimbabwe's body politic. The book has put
Mugabe on the defensive in the true sense of the word for the first time
because allegations have been made about him by someone from his own party
who knew him intimately at the period being spotlighted. This was taboo
Over the years, Mugabe has become an expert at denouncing and attacking
perceived enemies, sell-outs, agents of foreign powers or unpatriotic
Zimbabweans on behalf of the revolution, his party and government. He has
never had to defend his own record and reputation because he had cunningly
created the illusion that he was head and shoulders above the rest and
therefore beyond reproach in all departments. Hooray to Tekere for forcing
him to confront for the first time that this is not so and that like the
rest of us, he has human weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Ironically, if Mugabe's advisers and propagandists knew what they were doing
by keeping their fingers on the pulse of the nation and reading the public
mood correctly, they would have seized upon Tekere's revelations as an
opportunity to humanise Mugabe and portray him as a mortal human being like
After all, Mugabe is not the first leader in the world to have inconvenient
stories from his youth and past surfacing when he is at the pinnacle of
political power. His nemesis, United States president George Bush has had to
deal with revelations about a drinking problem in his youth and allegations
that he and his father belonged to a secret segregationist society. Another
U.S. president, Bill Clinton endured an even more fiery baptism of fire when
the U.S. congress trawled through his past to reveal numerous extra-marital
affairs while gathering evidence for his impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky
saga. Even in his retirement, Clinton still has to hear the jibe, 'I did not
inhale' which refers to his response when a story surfaced during his
presidency that he smoked mbanje during his student days at Oxford
University in Britain.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela had to grin and bear it when
personal details about his marriage to his now ex-wife Winnie were splashed
in the media when they divorced and during the reporting of the numerous
controversies Winnie has been embroiled in. Former Zambian president Kenneth
Kaunda had information about his Malawian origins exposed while he was in
power. Kurt Waldheim, who served as United Nations secretary general in the
1970s had to find a civilised way to manage the situation when information
surfaced that in his youth he had been a member of the SS, the Nazi
The list of world figures who have had secrets from their past exposed in
books or the media is endless. It is instructive that when the misfortune
befell them none of the figures listed above regarded it as the fire and
brimstone, life and death event that Mugabe has turned the publication of
Tekere's book into. He has gone on the warpath and encouraged an official
smear campaign against the author. He has enlisted an army of apologists,
columnists and the state broadcaster to defend him by spewing venom at
Tekere, whose book has made revelations about Mugabe's love life and marital
He appears, however, to have been most stung by Tekere's suggestion that he
was a reluctant recruit to the liberation struggle contrary to the image he
presents of himself today as someone who has never faltered or put a foot
wrong. Interestingly, Mugabe has often made mincemeat of opponents like
Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change over the issue of
their reluctance to join the war of liberation, proving the veracity of the
psychological theory of projection as a defence mechanism.
Mugabe has been hopping mad at Tekere because he cannot use brute force to
deal with him as he is currently doing to crush dissent following his
government's clampdown on political rallies. The only regrettable thing
about Tekere's book is that it and others chronicling events during the
early days of the liberation struggle did not appear earlier.
It is doubtful that if the roles of political luminaries had been subjected
to scrutiny by their peers, the creation of larger-than-life cult figures
like Mugabe would have occurred. If his advisers were worth their salt they
would know that is it futile to ram the details of how Mugabe was
"unanimously" anointed to lead Zanu PF more than 30 years ago down the
throats of a populace to whom independence is now meaningless because of the
repressive governance they are being subjected to.
This time-warped and sanctimonious self-validation means nothing in the
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her
column will appear here every Tuesday