Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Farisai Gonye and Brian Ncube
HARARE - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is considering a tough security
plan that could see the troubled southern African country placed under a
state of emergency within the coming month, ZimOnline has learnt.
Zimbabwe is on a knife-edge following violent protests by the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and civic groups over
the past month that have left at least one person dead.
The political tensions rose a gear up last weekend with the arrest of
opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara as well as
National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku.
Tsvangirai and Madhuku and several other leaders were heavily assaulted
while in police custody after they called a prayer rally in Highfield suburb
in defiance of a police ban on rallies and demonstrations imposed last
At a meeting attended at Mugabe's Munhumutapa offices in Harare on Thursday,
Mugabe is said to have pushed for the immediate declaration of a state of
emergency that would give the state extra powers to effect mass jailing of
Mugabe was however dissuaded from taking that route by his security chiefs
who felt the action would be too drastic and would send the wrong signals to
the international community.
"The meeting agreed that the situation on the ground was very volatile and
now demanded stern measures to control. CIO director-general (Happyton
Bonyongwe) agreed with Mugabe and suggested that the best way to redress the
volatile situation would be through declaration of a state of emergency.
"Bonyongwe said such a move would scare the public and make them stay away
from active show of anger towards the state," said an intelligence source.
Defence forces chief Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force of Zimbabwe boss
Perence Shiri, army commander Phillip Sibanda, Defence Minister Sydney
Sekeramayi, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Vice President Joseph
Msika all attended the meeting that stretched well into the night.
But the security ministers are said to have told Mugabe to use "maximum
force without officially declaring a state of emergency" saying Zimbabwe
would be viewed as unstable even by fellow African countries if it declared
a state of emergency.
Mugabe however insisted that a state of emergency remained an option and
would monitor the situation for a month before deciding the next course of
At the same meeting, Mugabe appointed State Security Minister and trusted
confidante Didymus Mutasa to oversee an elaborate security plan designed to
counter opposition protests against his rule.
Under the plan, the army and the police would with immediate effect
establish an active reserve force to deal with imminent opposition protests.
"Part of it (the security plan) would see the boosting of police and
military numbers through the immediate injection of manpower. Mugabe has
made Mutasa his point man on this," said a source.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Mutasa did not deny the security plan only
saying: ""As security minister obviously my main concern would be to ensure
that security prevails.
"Measures would be taken at appropriate times in response to appropriate
situations. One thing for suse, we will use any instrument necessary to
maintain peace and security. We don't want to be another Somalia."
The new security plan is separate from the already existing Joint Operations
Command that groups together security chiefs from the army, intelligence and
"Mutasa will be liaising with security bosses and briefing Mugabe on a daily
basis," said a source.
Mohadi refused to comment on the matter.
"I do not know what you are talking about. Who told you about such a
meeting? Leave me alone," he said before switching off his phone.
There are fears within the government that current opposition protests could
easily turn into full-fledged rebellion against Mugabe who is blamed for
plunging the southern African country into an unprecedented economic
turmoil. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Batsirai Muranje
HARARE - He sauntered into court at exactly 1345hrs. He could hardly see
because his face was heavily swollen, his half-shaved head clearly showing
the eight stitches which armed ZANU PF thugs inflicted on his head during
Sunday's brutal attacks.
As soon as a visibly bruised Morgan Tsvangirai entered Courtroom Six,
leading a long queue of political and civic leaders, several people wept
loudly. Another broke into a church song before police ordered the courtroom
to be quiet.
A member of the Tsvangirai camp's national executive, Ian Makone, who was
himself brutalised by the police during a workers' union demonstration last
year, broke down at the sight of Tsvangirai and had to be hurriedly led out
Silence gripped the courtroom as the 46 arrested activists found their place
among the chairs. It looked more of a hospital ward that a courtroom. In
fact, the whole bruised lot deserved to be in hospital and not in a
Those who were seriously injured included Tsvangirai, the National
Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku, the MDC's deputy national
treasurer, Elton Mangoma and deputy secretary for international affairs
The usually "alive" Nelson Chamisa, the MDC's spokesman, stood quietly in
the corner, all the energy and verve apparently gone after two days of
detention in the grimy cells.
Sekai Holland, usually talkative, remained mum even as fellow female
activists mobbed her as she feebly acknowledged their greetings and words of
Kwinje had almost half of her right ear severed off while her hands were a
deep purple from the savage assaults at the hands of crack commandos in
police attire during her detention at Braeside police station.
"They came for me. They were about four of them and they asked what kind of
woman I was who could not stay at home and cook instead of being involved in
"They assaulted me in my cell and left me for dead. When I woke up, I could
hardly see and talk but at least I was alive," Kwinje told ZimOnline as she
nibbled her obviously painful ear.
"A cellmate, an elderly woman who appeared to be a staunch Christian, then
took me in her arms and started singing a hymn. I slept in her arms that
Tsvangirai could only manage to mumble a few words to the crowd, which
included his wife Susan, which mobbed him as people waited for the trial to
"Let us all be strong. We will get there. One can never subjugate the
collective spirit of the people forever. We shall be strong," he said,
before he slumped on the stoep.
Tsvangirai and his fellow political and civic detainees were all arrested
last Sunday in Highfield after the police violently crushed a prayer meeting
organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition of political and civic
groups demanding political change in Zimbabwe.
Police shot and killed an MDC activist during the violent crackdown on the
The detainees were all brutally assaulted at Machipisa police station, where
they were detained without charge and denied access to legal and medical
Tsvangirai, who appeared to be the police's most prized possession,
reportedly lost consciousness three times during the savage attacks which
witnesses say lasted for about two hours.
It was indeed a somber moment that will remain etched in the minds of the
500-strong crowd the thronged the courtroom to hear the verdict for
Tsvangirai, Arhur Mutambara, the leader of the other faction of the MDC, and
several senior opposition leaders and civic activists.
Armed riot police, in full combat, stood guard both in the courtroom and
Madhuku was visibly in pain, with his right hand in a sling and his head
severely bandaged. Tsvangirai collapsed on the prison stoep and had to be
helped to a sitting position by Mutambara. It was a rare show of the "prison
unity" of the two leaders of the different factions of the same party.
It appeared most of the opposition supporters wished the solidarity and the
unity of their leaders in court yesterday could be transferred outside the
courtroom and the prison walls.
They appeared to say the two would do the nation a lot of good if they could
forge a formidable unit outside the courtroom by making sure there is one
Twice, Tsvangirai failed to sit up. Twice, Mutambara, who appeared not to
have been seriously assaulted, helped him, patting his shoulder for
More than twice, the two exchanged whispers and ended up smiling and shaking
If only it could be more than a courtroom gesture, the smiles from onlookers
in the courtroom seemed to suggest.
Then the Zimbabwean justice system exposed itself once more to the world.
For more than two hours, we all waited for the remand hearing, hoping to
hear what crime these political civic and political leaders had committed.
For more than two hours, nothing happened.
No court official or magistrate turned up to kick off the hearing.
Then Advocate Eric Matinenga, representing Tsvangirai and his colleagues,
stood and told the courtroom that all the court officials had fled their
chambers. There was no one to hear the case.
This was clearly in contempt of court. On Monday night, High Court Judge
Chinembiri Bhunu had ruled that all the arrested people should have access
to legal and medical assistance, failure of which the State had to produce
all the detainees at 8am the following morning.
The police neither gave the detainees access to medication and legal
assistance, nor did they bring them before Bhunu by 8am as ordered.
Bhunu had also ordered that they should be brought before a magistrate
before 12pm, but they only turned up at 1345hrs. Another case of contempt of
Then there was no trial magistrate. Again, another case of contempt of
Welcome to Zimbabwe, where the wheels of justice move so slowly that the
snail will be green with envy!
As the bemused people in the courtroom wondered what would happen next, six
armed riot policemen, President Robert Mugabe's dogs of war, viciously
charged into the courtroom and ordered everyone to leave except the accused.
The defence lawyers and the entire courtroom stood their ground and refused
to budge. But the police had another ace up their sleeve. They simply left
the courtroom and left Tsvangirai and his colleagues as well as the packed
courtroom to stay in the cramped courtroom for another two hours!
After deliberations between the lawyers and the police, police vans appeared
outside the courtroom.
The detainees were all whisked away for medical treatment. Hundreds of
people outside the courtroom stood in awe as the police vehicles drove off
with their prized possessions.
They all seemed to be wondering if these brutal policemen were really taking
them to hospital or to the gallows. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Farisai Gonye
HARARE - A crack Commando unit based at the army's Cranborne Barracks
in Harare was responsible for the brutal torture of Morgan Tsvangirai and
other opposition leaders on Sunday, according to a police officer who
witnessed the assault.
The police officer, who is based at Machipisa Police Station in
Highfield suburb, said Tsvangirai and the other opposition leaders were
tortured for close to two hours by drugged soldiers disguised as police
In an interview with ZimOnline on Tuesday, the police officer who
cannot be named for security reasons, said: "I have been in the police force
for three years, and I have been involved in the assault of suspects.
"But what I saw on Sunday was not assault. It was attempted murder,
especially on Tsvangirai, Madhuku and Kwinjeh (Grace, the MDC deputy
secretary for international affairs)"
Tsvangirai fainted three times during the murderous assault.
In a harrowing narration of what transpired behind the police walls to
our correspondent in Harare, the police officer, speaking in hushed tones,
said 12 Commandoes from Cranborne Barracks were responsible for the assault.
Even police officers were unnerved by the seriousness and brutality of
"They (soldiers) were dressed in police uniform and had bloodshot
eyes. They told us they were police officers, but I managed to identify them
as Commandoes because of the green army belts they were wearing on top of
"Only commandoes wear those. One of them announced that they had
smoked a special grade of marijuana for the special mission. I witnessed the
whole incident. Police officers from Machipisa were not involved. We were
stunned at the ruthlessness.
"They were shouting and telling Tsvangirai that they could kill him on
that night and nothing would happen to them," said the officer.
The police officer said the beatings started at 11.45pm and lasted for
more than two hours.
"Tsvangirai was the first to be attacked. They said they wanted to
show the others that they meant business. Tsvangirai's colleagues openly
wept as their leader was being beaten.
"I think they were feeling for Tsvangirai as well as pondering their
own fate," he said.
Using sjamboks, army belts and gun butts, the soldiers severely
attacked Tsvangirai until he passed out, said the police officer.
"The soldiers then shifted attention to the remaining suspects, as
one of the soldiers poured cold water all over Tsvangirai to resuscitate
him. They came to the women, and identified Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland.
"The male soldiers began beating the two, while their female
colleagues concentrated on Madhuku. The rest were watching, awaiting their
"When Tsvangirai regained consciousness, one of them shouted: 'Look
their boss is ready for more action', and they all pounced on him again
until he passed out for the second time.
"Tsvangirai regained consciousness again at around 1:30 am. One
vicious woman was left to work on him. She removed an army belt from her
waist and used it to assault Tsvangirai until he passed out again.
"I thought he was dead but she appeared unmoved. She simply moved to
join her colleagues who were now indiscriminately beating the other
"Mutambara was assaulted but not as severely as Tsvangirai, Madhuku
One disabled MDC supporter who was also detained together with
Tsvangirai and other leaders was so severely assaulted that he begged the
soldiers to finish him off.
"The guy was a sorry sight," he said.
Pleas by the MDC leaders to stop beating the disabled man fell on deaf
ears with one woman soldier retorting that it (beating) would teach him to
live without challenging President Mugabe's authority.
In the early hours of Monday, Tsvangirai and his colleagues, all
blindfolded, were bundled into a police truck and dropped at different
police stations for detention, while an army truck pulled up and picked the
soldiers, according to the police source. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri and Thabani Mlilo
HARARE - The remand hearing for Morgan Tsvangirai and several other
opposition and civic leaders failed to take place on Tuesday in clear
defiance of a High Court order demanding the release of detained opposition
Tsvangirai and 48 other opposition and civic leaders were still in police
custody yesterday despite a High Court ruling on Monday ordering the police
to bring them to court at 8am yesterday or release them from custody.
The police however defied the court order issued by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu
bringing the opposition officials to court well after midday on Tuesday.
But court proceeding could not begin as the opposition's defence lawyers
haggled with state prosecutors demanding that their clients be allowed to
first seek medical attention before the case could be heard.
There was tension outside court as the police tried to prevent a restive
crowd of about 300 people from entering the court.
Inside the court, people openly wept as a badly bruised Tsvangirai, flanked
by Arthur Mutambara and Lovemore Madhuku led 48 other MDC and civic leaders
Tsvangirai looked exhausted and kept his head low as he sat in court.
His right eye was swollen while the other one looked bloodshot. Part of his
hair was shaved off revealing a deep gash on the head.
Lovemore Madhuku, the chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly
pressure group, had his head bandaged.
But the hearing failed to kick off as the lawyers and the prosecution
haggled over matters of procedure.
Harare magistrate Guvamombe, who was supposed to preside over the case, only
appeared at the court around 1630 saying he was now ready to preside over
At around 6pm last night, the defence lawyers walked out court accusing the
state of acting in bad faith.
"I have never heard anything of that sort. This is against the spirit of the
High Court order which said the accused must have been released by midday,"
"We are likely to go to the High Court to get a discharge order so that they
are discharged from the clinic," he added.
One of the accused collapsed in court forcing Florence Ziyambi from the
Attorney General's office to halt proceedings.
An emergency medical services company was called to ferry the accused to a
private hospital in Harare.
Tsvangirai briefly addressed the media before he was taken to hospital for
treatment vowing to press ahead with plans to confront President Robert
"It was a horrible attack but the struggle continues," he said briefly.
Mutambara, who heads a rival faction of the MDC, said: "We are going to
continue fighting. Mugabe is a criminal. We will continue to defy all
United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, speaking outside the
court said: "It is quite clear that they were badly assaulted. The objective
was to break them down. But the regime failed because their fighting spirit
is still very high."
Britain's ambassador, Andrew Pocock, described the beating of Tsvangirai and
other MDC leaders as a "ghastly" attack.
"The situation looks pretty ghastly as they were badly beaten. Tendai (Biti)
was beaten on the buttocks and legs. In fact this is worse than the
September (2006) assault on ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union)
leaders," he said.
"It is quite clear that the government is under pressure. If the objective
was to subdue them then it has failed because they have not lost any of
their spirit. This was obviously intended to frustrate them. Lovemore
(Madhuku) looks bouyant, Tendai (Biti) looks cheerful," he said. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Larry Valleta
JOHANNESBURG - The South African government last night ended its
"curious silence" on President Robert Mugabe's brutality as it urged Harare
to respect the rule of law and the rights of all Zimbabweans as
international pressure mounted on Harare.
President Thabo Mbeki's government had come under heavy criticism for
maintaining what critics described as a very "curious silence" on Zimbabwe
after Movement for Democratic change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and
scores of other party activists were arrested and brutally tortured by the
police and army.
Spokesman for South Africa 's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),
Ronnie Mamoepa, had enraged many when he issued a terse statement earlier in
the day saying South Africa had "noted" the developments in Zimbabwe.
Mamoepa's statement drew sharp criticism from the Congress of South
African Trade Unions (COSATU) which said: "Such a response is disgraceful,
in the face of such massive attacks on democracy and human rights,
especially coming from those who owed so much to international solidarity
when South Africans were fighting for democracy and human rights against the
As international criticism of Mugabe's regime continued to pour in
yesterday, South Africa's deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad then issued a
more detailed and substantive statement.
"South Africa expresses its concerns about these reports as well as
the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. In this
regard, we are of the view that the current difficulties are symptomatic of
the broader political and economic challenges facing Zimbabwe " said Pahad.
"Accordingly, South Africa has consistently maintained and moved from
the premise that only dialogue among the main political protagonists can
help bring about a lasting solution to the current political and economic
challenges facing Zimbabwe."
The statement urged Mugabe's government "to ensure that the rule of
law including respect for rights of all Zimbabweans and leaders of various
political parties is respected".
It also urged leaders of the opposition to work towards a "climate
that is conducive to finding a lasting solution to the current challenges
faced by the people of Zimbabwe."
Although a bit detailed, the South African statement nonetheless
maintained a very mild tone compared to condemnations of Mugabe from other
The harshest criticism for Mugabe came from US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice who branded Mugabe's regime "ruthless and repressive".
"The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert
Mugabe is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people
of Zimbabwe," Rice said in a statement.
Rice said the US government held Mugabe directly responsible for the
"safety and well-being" of Tsvangirai and other detained officials.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also sharply criticised the Zimbabwe
government saying that its actions "violate the basic democratic right of
citizens to engage in peaceful assembly," while the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Louise Arbour, called for a full investigation.
"This form of repression and intimidation of a peaceful assembly is
unacceptable, and the loss of life makes this even more disturbing," Arbour
Statements of condemnation also came from the governments of Germany,
Canada, Spain and Britain, among others.
Even France, whose role in Africa is often controversial due to its
backing of repressive regimes, condemned the arrests.
But while Western governments railed against Mugabe, a majority of
Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries opted to remain on the sidelines and did
not say anything substantive with the exception of Zambia whose president
Levy Mwanawasa said his government was "deeply concerned" about the problems
Mwanawasa however urged Zimbabweans to resolve their own problems. -
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Tsungayi Murandu
HARARE - Zimbabwe's tottering economy cannot afford a further six years
under President Robert Mugabe whose plans to seek re-election in 2008 could
widen the existing fissures within the ruling party, an international
economic think-tank has warned.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in a report released on Monday
that there is a growing realisation among top ZANU PF party supporters that
the economy could not take further beating from Mugabe's policies.
The 83-year-old Zimbabwean leader has indicated that he would stand for
re-election if he was chosen as the ruling ZANU PF party's presidential
candidate in polls scheduled for 2008.
"This threat is likely to concentrate the minds of the power-brokers within
ZANU PF, conscious that the economy simply cannot afford another six years
of a Mugabe presidency," said the London-based think-tank.
The EIU warned that time was fast running out for Mugabe whose government
seems to be in a state of denial when it is losing control of the country.
With world record inflation of 1 730 percent and an unstable exchange rate,
the EIU said that the writing was on the wall for a regime that over the
past few months has shown signs of political and economic disarray.
Mugabe's succession issue has threatened to tear the ruling party apart,
with the infighting spilling to the control of the economy where a dog fight
has emerged between the camps supporting the two main rivals - Vice
President Joice Mujuru and Rural Amenities Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Because there is no consensus on a successor to Mugabe, the ruling ZANU PF
party floated a plan to postpone the presidential poll until 2010, when it
would be "harmonised" with parliamentary elections scheduled for that year.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa have, however, come out against the plan, a development
the EIU said might have prompted the long-serving Zimbabwean leader to seek
reelection in 2008.
If he stands for office and wins, he would theoretically stay in office
until 2014 and his 90th birthday.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and State Security Minister
Didymus Mutasa have admitted that Harare's much-vaunted land-resettlement
programme has not been a success and that the current season's crop of the
staple maize would be a mere 600 000 tonnes or one-third of annual
The government has been forced to appeal to the United Nations' World Food
Programme for US$250 million in food aid. - ZimOnline
March 14, 2007
Jan Raath in Harare
The leader of Zimbabwe's Opposition yesterday left court for hospital
treatment on injuries inflicted in police custody, vowing to continue his
campaign against President Mugabe.
Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the biggest faction of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), had severe lacerations to his head with possible
internal damage, a suspected fractured hand and deep bruising all over his
It was the first time that he had been seen since he was arrested on Sunday
after defying a national ban on political rallies. As he came down the steps
of Harare Magistrates' Court with his checked shirt torn open in the front,
a young man in the crowd began defiantly singing, God Bless Africa, Southern
Africa's hymn to freedom. Others joined in, fervently. A woman beside me
sobbed in rage as she sang.
The full scale of the police violence became apparent as one by one, 50
opposition leaders and supporters winced down the court steps to be ferried
to hospital in a shuttle of seven ambulances.
The first was a young man on a stretcher. The rest followed on crutches,
helped down by ambulance attendants, supporting each other. At least one had
bloodstained trousers; some were barefoot.
About 300 onlookers, pushed back by riot police, watched, shocked into a
silence broken occasionally by angry muttering. Florence Ziyambi, a state
lawyer, ordered all those requiring treatment to the ambulances.
Human rights groups have protested that Mr Tsvangirai and others had been
tortured in police custody and his treatment has been condemned by Western
countries. But most of Zimbabwe's neighbours were either silent or muted in
their concern. South Africa urged the Government to "ensure respect for
human rights and leaders of various parties".
Sunday's action after what the Opposition declared a "prayer meeting" was
the second time in three weeks that police had descended on MDC supporters
with unrestrained ferocity. One, Gift Tandare, was shot dead at close range
in the chest. Scores more were injured and Highfields was sealed off for two
The 50 who appeared in court yesterday, mostly picked out as leaders, were
taken to befouled police cells around the city and assaulted systematically.
They were refused access to lawyers and medical attention, according to
Relatives who had snatches of conversations in the court said that they told
of being forced to lie face down and being beaten again and again over the
past three days, in the streets, in police stations, with rubber truncheons
and long wooden batons, and kicked.
"Yes, you will be beaten up for sure," President Mugabe told trade union
demonstrators in September.
Since he gave that warning, he has faced a sudden and unexpected tide of
defiance and anger over the relentless impoverishment brought on by
inflation - now 1,700 per cent - after the past seven years of lawlessness
and economic mismanagement.
Mr Mugabe, 83, who has been in power since independence in 1980, appears
vulnerable as never before, according to political analysts, and has cracked
down with characteristic savagery.
The proceedings yesterday came only after police had defied two court orders
for the 50 to be granted access to medical attention.
"Tsvangirai really asked for the trouble in which he finds himself," said
Nathan Shamuyarira, the ruling Zanu (PF) party's spokesman. He said that the
reports of assault were "an overexaggeration", and added: "Prisoners are
allowed access to medical and legal services. We have observed all the laws
a nation should observe."
"It was pretty damn barbaric," said Andrew Pocock, the British Ambassador
who watched proceedings in the court. "But if the objective was to cow the
MDC, I don't think they have done it. There is a lot of spirit, and they
will need it."
By Patience Rusere
13 March 2007
Civic groups have vowed to launch protests over the arrest and alleged
beating and torture of leaders of the political and civil opposition in the
wake of Sunday's abortive prayer meeting in Highfield, where police shot and
killed an activist.
Students have mobilized in support of the arrested opposition officials and
members. Several leaders of the Zimbabwe National Students Union were
arrested in Harare at the University of Zimbabwe when they tried to organize
a street march.
Hundreds of Zimbabweans in exile showed up for a demonstration at the
Zimbabwean consulate in Johannesburg to protest the arrests and reported
Johannesburg-based regional representative Pastor Emmanuel Hlabangana of the
Save Zimbabwe Campaign, speaking on behalf of the Zimbabwe opposition
umbrella organization, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that demonstrations are in the works to step up pressure on the
Mugabe's repression in Zimbabwe mirrors the brutality of apartheid South
Africa - but with an international community passive and supine.
Comment by Peter Tatchell
The scenes of violent state repression in Zimbabwe this week are tragically
reminiscent of another time and place. Machine-gun toting armoured personnel
carriers swamp the black townships. Police and soldiers fire tear gas and
live rounds, shooting at least one protester dead. They beat others with
rifle butts, clubs and whips. Hundreds have been hauled off to interrogation
centres where they are, right now, being beaten and tortured.
We have seen such images many times before - during the apartheid era, in
neighbouring South Africa. The brutality may be similar, but that is where
the comparison ends. In Zimbabwe, it is a black minority that is terrorising
the black majority. The tyranny isn't racial; it's political. But it is
still tyranny - and on a monumental scale. Comparisons with the savagery of
PW Botha's repression in the 1980s are, if anything, understatements.
President Mugabe's regime no longer cares about Zimbabwean or international
public opinion. It cares only about clinging on to power and maintaining the
looted wealth and privileges of the ZANU-PF kleptocratic elite.
State repression knows no bounds, as evidenced by the bare-faced police
battery of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, which required him to
have hospital treatment for head injuries. Dozens of other opposition
leaders have been beaten and tortured.
This is nothing new. Mugabe has murdered more black Africans than the evil
South African apartheid regime did. In just one region of Zimbabwe, in just
one decade - in Matabeleland in the 1980s - his army slaughtered an
estimated 20,000 civilians. This is the equivalent of a Sharpeville massacre
every day for more than nine months.
The world was outraged by Sharpeville, but not by Matabeleland. Why the
double standards? A black state murdering black citizens does not,
apparently, merit the same outrage as a white state murdering black
citizens. I call that racism.
Over recent years, thousands of Zimbabwean opposition activists have been
kidnapped, detained without trial, tortured and raped. You heard correct.
Raped! Mugabe's most pathological storm troopers use sexual violence as a
weapon of war. They rape both female and male political detainees, in a bid
to humiliate and psychologically break them.
Hundreds of opposition supporters have disappeared or been murdered. Nearly
all the victims are black. Human rights groups like the Amani Trust, which
used to monitor and publicise these abuses, have folded because of
state-sanctioned harassment and intimidation. At least 2 million Zimbabweans
have fled to neighbouring South Africa to escape the terror.
Mugabe and his thugs no longer care about Zimbabwean or international public
opinion. They are now ruling by brute force, in the full knowledge that the
African Union and the United Nations will do nothing. White racist
oppression stirs the international community to action, as we saw during the
apartheid era. But black-on-black "fascism" produces only indifference.
Mugabe is skilfully exploiting these ethical double standards to get away
with the destruction of a whole nation.
Zimbabwe's inflation rate is over 1,700%. Unemployment is 80%. The budget
deficit is nearly half the country's GDP. About 3,500 Zimbabweans die every
week from a combination of malnutrition, poverty and HIV/Aids, which means
that more people are dying in Zimbabwe than in Darfur. A quarter of all
Zimbabwean children (1.6 million) are orphans, which is the highest
proportion anywhere in the world. The United Nations has warned that 6
million Zimbabweans face starvation.
The response of the international community to this inhumanity has been
feeble and ineffectual. Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth did
nothing to weaken President Mugabe's dictatorship. The EU travel ban is
lifted whenever the regime's top officials apply to attend diplomatic
conferences; even though they often make only fleeting appearances and spend
the rest of their time in Europe's top cities wining and dining.
World leaders who rant against Mugabe's barbarisms refuse to enforce
international human rights laws against him. Under the UN Convention Against
Torture, any government could issue an arrest warrant and seize Mugabe on
his overseas trips. He could be put on trial in The Hague, as happened to
But when this point is put to international leaders, they plead that, as a
serving head of state, Mugabe has immunity from prosecution. What, then, is
the point of having international human rights laws, if the chief abusers
are exempt and cannot be prosecuted?
One of the most depressing aspects of the Zimbabwe crisis is the failure of
South Africa to speak out. President Mbeki has endorsed as free and fair a
succession of fraudulent elections. He has also gone out of his way to
thwart international action against Zimbabwe, arguing against external
pressure to promote democracy and human rights.
Ironically, when he was a leader of the ANC's liberation struggle, two
decades ago, Mbeki argued the exact opposite. He said the world had a moral
duty to impose economic sanctions to undermine the apartheid government. Why
is there a moral duty to challenge a white tyranny, but not a black one? Are
black Zimbabwean lives worth less than the lives of their South African
Despite having benefited from an international solidarity campaign to win
black freedom, the ANC is now refusing to show solidarity with the freedom
struggle of the people of Zimbabwe. The ANC had a Freedom Charter for South
Africa. Don't Zimbabweans deserve freedom, too - and shouldn't the ANC be
helping them win it?
By Tichaona Sibanda
MDC activists arrested in Mutare on Monday are still languishing in police
cells a day after they were picked up just before an anti-government protest
in the eastern border town.
Pishai Muchauraya the MDC spokesman for Manicaland said it took the police
more than 30 hours to record cautioned statements from the activists who
were now waiting to be taken to court.
He described conditions in the cells as poor and not fit for a human being.
Each cell is holding up to 30 activists instead of the 10 it was built for.
Police also made no attempt to provide food for those arrested. An SOS was
sent out to town and people started bringing food into the prison.
Muchauraya spoke to us from the cells. He said there were over 100 activists
who were arrested, including children and women. He said they have not been
able to sleep or get any kind of rest.
Lawyers representing the activists have worked all day to try to get them to
court but are facing serious bureaucratic delays, blamed on the police.
The detainees allege Officer-in-Charge of the station, Florence Marume, has
been particularly harsh to them. She has allegedly been brutal and openly
condemned the opposition MDC.
'I believe this is a deliberate plot by the police, especially this Marume,
to keep us locked in these filthy cells to break our backs-she will not
succeed,' Muchauraya said.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe National Students Union leaders Promise Mkwananzi and
Washington Katema were picked up by the police just before a planned march
into the city from the University of Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Innocent Kasiyano, co-ordinator of the students Christian movement of
Zimbabwe, said police pounced on the student leaders and others as they were
marching along second street extension.
There were also running battles between the students and the police.
Mkwananzi and Katema were initially released but arrested after going to the
Magistrates' court to attend court hearing of those arrested on Sunday. They
are now expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
13th Mar 2007 20:45 GMT
By Dennis Rekayi
HARARE - Opposition MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai was taken to hospital
under police guard earlier today with other pro-democracy activists but the
detainees were taken back to court around 2130 hours.
It was not immediately clear why the Zimbabwe government was taking the
political leaders back to court during the night but a text message from an
opposition official said they hoped they would be released after the
"We hope that they are going to release them after all the condemnation that
has come from the all over the world, even South Africa has called on the
Zimbabwe government to observe the people's rights though what we would have
wanted was an outright condemnation," said an opposition activist last
Other activists and MPs were not so sure. They think Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) officers are in charge of the operation together with
army intelligence colleagues.
Trudy Stevenson, the Harare North MP said: "All detainees from Sunday's
attempt to attend a Prayer Meeting in Highfield, Harare, were taken by
"police", we doubt that the genuine ZRP are in control in this operation.
From the hospital, where they had been admitted on medical grounds this
afternoon, they were taken back to the Magistrates Court this evening at
around 9.30 pm local time. The Attorney General's Office has indicated it is
not prepared to be involved in such un-procedural hearings, therefore all
detainees are currently sitting in the court waiting for the next step."
Her message was sent at 2257 local time.
The United States is one of the countries that had demanded the immediate
release of Tsvangirai and others who were arrested as the Zimbabwe
government crushed attempts by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign to hold a prayer
meeting for Zimbabwe.
A badly bruised and limping Tsvangirai, with some of his hair missing due to
a head wound and a swollen eye that was almost closed, appeared in court
Tuesday but was taken to hospital later to seek medical treatement.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition said all the detainees, including Arthur
Mutambara and Lovemore Madhuku had also been taken to the Avenues Clinic
under police guard.
"We suspect they might be released tonight through the High Court but they
are still in detention. The hospital is circled by armed police officers."
Several people including Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland were so severely
injured that they had to be taken from court to the hospital in an
ambulance. The injured leaders and activists had been sitting in the
courtroom for almost three hours because the magistrate failed to turn up.
Commenting on the brutal beatings and alleged torture, Priscilla
Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the Mutambara MDC said:
"The MDC is deeply concerned about this deliberate delay. What we know is
that the Cabinet is sitting right now and is it not far-fetched to conclude
that the magistrates are unwilling to try the matter until they have
received instructions from cabinet on how to deal with it."
The European Union and the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban
Ki-Moon, joined the U.S. today in condemning the crackdown on the activists.
In a written statement, the United Nations human rights commissioner, Louise
Arbour, cited "shocking reports of police abuse" and called for an inquiry
by Zimbabwe's government into the violence.
The State Department earlier had called the violence brutal and unwarranted.
Zimbabwe is yet to respond to the international criticism but said it would
not fold its hands Sunday as it alleged the opposition was out to cause
mayhem on the streets by inciting people to be violent.
Police officers remained present in Highfield as well as in the city's
The heavy police presence underscored the government's determination to
contain what many opposition figures and analysts say is growing unrest in
the face of economic collapse.
The court appearance by opposition leaders and activists today came after
the government ignored an earlier order by the nation's High Court to allow
lawyers and doctors to talk to and examine the imprisoned activists.
Five people, including Zinasu student leaders Promise Mukwanazi and
Washington Katema, were also arrested yesterday as opposition supporters
sand "Ishe Komborera Africa" outside the courts. It was also alleged that a
Crisis in Zimbabwe vehicle had been impounded by the police. The student
leaders had been arrested earlier while trying to address students. They
were then released, only to be arrested again at the courts.
Wednesday 14 March 2007
By Magugu Nyathi
JOHANNESBURG - At least 300 Zimbabweans on Tuesday demonstrated at the
Zimbabwe Consulate in Johannesburg demanding the immediate release of Morgan
Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and other civic leaders who were arrested in
Harare last weekend.
The demonstration was organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition
of churches, labour, students and political parties that is fighting for
political change in Zimbabwe.
Hussein Sibanda, one of the organisers of the protest, said President Robert
Mugabe's government must immediately release the detainees.
"We are very concerned about the developments taking place in Zimbabwe. But
we believe that the crackdown will galvanise us to push for political change
at home. We believe 2007 is a year for change in Zimbabwe," he said.
Nicholas Mukaronda, the co-ordinator of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition South
Africa, said no amount of repression and brutality will stop their demands
for a just and equitable society in Zimbabwe.
"We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters back home who have
been arrested, beaten, tortured and denied food while in police custody. We
demand that the Zimbabwean government release our brothers now," he said.
Roy Bennett, an exiled senior official of the Tsvangirai-led Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party, said the crackdown showed that Mugabe had
launched a full-scale assault on the rights of Zimbabweans.
"All we are asking for is freedom to decide our own fate. We demand that we
vote in 2008 under a new, democratic constitution. We are standing in
solidarity with our colleagues in Harare," said Bennett.
Tsvangirai, Mutambara, National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore
Madhuku and several other opposition and civic leaders were arrested last
Sunday while on their way to a prayer rally at Zimbabwe Grounds.
Tsvangirai and Madhuku were severely assaulted while in police custody by
suspected army commandos.
ZANU PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira yesterday defended the assault of
Tsvangirai saying the opposition leader invited trouble for himself in a bid
to capture international headlines after he defied a police ban on rallies
and demonstrations. The United States, the Congress of South African Trade
Unions have all condemned the brutal assault of Tsvangirai and the civic
leaders. - ZimOnline