by Godfrey Marawanyika Sun Mar 18, 11:51 AM ET
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's security forces have stopped an opposition
activist from leaving the country at Harare airport and beat him up badly in
an ongoing crackdown on dissent, his colleagues reported Sunday.
The attack on Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), was the fourth time a member of the opposition was prevented
from travelling abroad at the weekend.
"He was badly beaten this morning whilst he was on his way to the airport by
security agents," said William Bango, a spokesman for MDC leader Morgan
Chamisa had been due to fly out of Harare International Airport to Belgium
for a meeting amid mounting criticism across Africa and abroad of action by
President Robert Mugabe's government against opposition activists.
Police also descended on Chamisa's constituency, where there was a tense
atmosphere Sunday, and ordered that shops and churches there be closed, said
"Chamisa was going to Brussels where he would have interacted with powerful
decision makers in the EU and would have met powerful media barons and would
have made a very strong case against the goings on in Zimbabwe," University
of Zimbabwe political analyst Eldred Masunungure told AFP.
Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway faction of the MDC, was rearrested
on Saturday at Harare International Airport and charged with inciting public
violence, his lawyer Harrison Nkomo told AFP on Sunday.
Also barred from leaving were activists Grace Kwinje and Sekai Holland, who
wanted to go to neighbouring South Africa for medical attention after being
beaten by security forces on March 11.
Their lawyer, Aleck Muchadehama, told AFP security agents confiscated their
passports Saturday and demanded clearance from the health ministry as the
two were being airlifted from Harare.
Rashweat Mukundu, a media committee member of the Save Zimbabwe coalition,
said: "This is an attempt in stopping the world from seeing what exactly the
brutality is that was subjected on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
and other civic activists."
"This is a violation of freedom of movement rights, violation of freedom of
association. This also marks a turning point in the political situation in
Zimbabwe," Mukundu told AFP. "The government is now behaving like a rebel
group of some sort."
His comments echoed those of the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in
a telephone interview Sunday with the BBC.
"Things are bad but I think this crisis has reached a tipping point and we
could be seeing the beginning of the end of this dictatorship," Tsvangirai
said, adding that the attack on Chamisa was "a pattern which is increasing
in intensity and I think that this is a very serious situation."
On Saturday, the African Union issued its strongest rebuke yet when it
called on Zimbabwe to respect human rights and democratic principles during
the political crisis engulfing the country.
African Union commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare said Mugabe's government
must have "respect for human rights and democratic principles in Zimbabwe,"
the pan-African body said in a statement.
For Mukundu, this was not enough.
"The AU has always been reactive and waited for the last minute to resolve
serious issues," he said.
"To me the Zimbabwean situation has reached a stage where the weight of
African Union, the weight of Southern African Development Community, the
weight of the whole world must be brought to bear on the Zimbabwean
government so that it can make concrete reforms."
Mugabe has brushed aside the international condemnation first sparked by
images of a badly beaten Tsvangirai. Western governments could "go hang", he
said, accusing the opposition of waging a violent campaign against him.
Elphus Mukonoweshuro, a lecturer in political science at the University of
Zimbabwe, said moral statements and condemnation would not succeed.
"If the AU is to maintain its credibility as a continental body it must take
steps to ensure that the crisis in Zimbabwe is resolved," he said.
Associated Press 03.18.07, 6:47 AM ET
Zimbabwe is facing a critical moment that could see the end of the
dictatorship of President Robert Mugabe, the leader of the country's main
opposition said Sunday.
Speaking by telephone from Harare, Morgan Tsvangirai said he was recovering
from injuries allegedly inflicted by police during a March 11 protest
gathering. Photographs of his battered face were printed in newspapers
around the world, drawing more attention to the situation in the southern
"Things are bad," Tsvangirai told the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Sunday AM
program, "but I think that this crisis has reached a tipping point, and we
could see the beginning of the end of this dictatorship in whatever form."
Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change, was among scores of
activists injured as police cracked down on an opposition meeting in the
Harare township of Highfield. One activist was shot and killed. Zimbabwean
police used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition and beat activists
during and after arrests, according to opposition members.
Tsvangirai's supporters have vowed to drive Mugabe from office with a
campaign of civil disobedience.
Mugabe's critics at home and abroad accuse him of repression and corruption
and blame him for acute food shortages and the world's highest rate of
inflation. The recent violence heightened growing tensions in urban
strongholds of the opposition, and renewed questions about how long the
83-year-old can maintain his tight grip on power.
Tsvangirai also criticized South Africa for its role in the crisis. Calling
the country a "critical player," he said South Africa "could have been more
strong," and urged continued pressure from both the African Union and the
international community, as well as individual nations such as the United
South African President Thabo Mbeki has said quiet diplomacy is preferable
to public condemnation, but Western governments have condemned the violence.
The U.S. is threatening to strengthen sanctions, and last month the European
Union renewed targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and a travel ban
on Mugabe and more than 100 of his top associates.
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 18 March
Fiona Forde and Edwin Naidu
From her hospital bed in Harare, Grace Kwinje, the MDC deputy-secretary for
international affairs, told us of the beatings she received from the
Zimbabwean police last Sunday, the torture a day later by members of
military intelligence and the emotional trauma that has since set in. The
ordeal came after her arrest at last Sunday's public demonstrations in
Harare. "I have never been so afraid," said the 30-year-old woman. "It has
never been this bad before. Never. They came at me with batons, belts,
anything that would inflict pain. They kicked me so hard. The beat me.
Whenever they would stop, I would just hold my breath, hoping that was the
end of it. But then someone else would come into the cell and take over.
Shortly after midnight, I was taken out of Highfield Police Station. But by
that stage, I couldn't comprehend what was going on. I was almost
She woke up at some point on Monday in Braeside police station and
immediately began to fear the worst. She was alone, not a fellow comrade in
sight. Her fears were confirmed when two military intelligence members came
knocking on her cell door. "I can't describe to you what happened there. I
was kicked around the room. I was beaten with belts. They kept going for my
head. Then I started to collapse. There's no point in me trying to describe
it to you, because there are no words for this." By the time the thugs had
finished, Kwinje was lying in a heap in the corner of the cell, where her
lawyers found her on Tuesday morning. The mother-of-three had suffered
severe head injuries and is left with a swollen brain today. Her hearing is
affected by the beatings she received to the right side of her head. The
lobe of her right ear was so badly torn that she had most of it removed by
surgeons later in the week.
"I'm on a lot of medication now which eases the pain, but it's the emotional
side that I can't control. The psychological damage is not good. I can't be
by myself. My family sits with me around the clock. I just feel so
traumatised." The doctors attending to her recommended that she go to a
quiet place to convalesce. Douglas Gwatidzo, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe
Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said he treated a number of the 64
people who were brought to the hospital in Harare on Tuesday, including
Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader. "Most of them were thoroughly beaten up
and had soft-tissue injuries. mainly on the buttocks and thighs. Some had
broken arms and ankles. I treated Tsvangirai myself when he came in. He was
in poor shape."He said doctors belonging to the association would document
the injuries in an article for the South African Medical Journal.
"Naturally, because of the work we are doing, one wonders whether we would
be next, but my conscience is my guiding principle. I am only documenting
what I am seeing - fear should be in those inflicting pain," he said.
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 8:38 PM
Subject: Update On The Arrest Of The MDC President Mutambara
12.30 pm Sunday 18th update - President Mutambara is still in Harare Central
cells, however he has not been tortured! His lawyer has access to him, and
he is ok.
Meanwhile Chamisa was attacked by a group of unidentified men at the airport
this morning as he was on his way to the EU-ACP meeting, and severely
injured on the head - he is back in hospital in Harare.
MDC Press Statement
17 March 2007
Update on The Arrest Of The MDC President Mutambara
Following the statement that we released this afternoon, we hereby advise
that we have since established that the MDC President Professor Arthur
Mutambara who was arrested by the Zimbabwe Republic Police at Harare
International Airport on his way to South Africa to visit his wife as he
regularly does every week or every fort night, is being held at Harare
Central Police station on the same allegations that he was previously
arrested for on Sunday 11 March 2007.We are made to believe that the
allegations/charge that is being leveled against him and the colleagues he
was arrested with on Sunday 11 March 2007 is that he incited MDC supporters
to commit acts of violence on the same day.
It will be recalled that there is an operative High Court Order issued by
Justice Bhunu, which directed that unless the MDC President together with
those he was arrested with were produced before a magistrate before midday
on 13 March 2007 and charged, he together with the colleagues he was
arrested with were to be released from police custody.
He together with his colleagues were neither brought before the magistrate
before midday on 13 March 2007 nor charged as a result of which failure he
together with his colleagues were obliged to be released. In the
circumstances the arrest of the MDC President flies in the face of the
effect and spirit of the High Court Order. Once again we see the regime
acting in defiance and contempt of Court Orders.
We reiterate that the high handed use of force and the deliberate arrests of
people at the weekend to maximize the abuse of law is the hallmark of a
dictatorship which is scared of the people.
We demand the immediate release of the MDC President
R.W. Johnson and Laura Thomas
March 19, 2007
AMID mounting signs of social unrest, the former head of Zimbabwe's army has
embarked on a charm offensive among foreign ambassadors in Harare,
convincing President Robert Mugabe that he is plotting a coup.
Solomon Mujuru, whose wife Joice is Zimbabwe's Vice-President, has met the
British, French and US ambassadors, provoking fury from Mr Mugabe, who now
believes leading players in his own Zanu-PF party are scheming to overthrow
In an unprecedented attack on senior party figures, Mr Mugabe claimed at the
weekend that there was "an insidious dimension where ambitious leaders have
been cutting deals with the British and Americans".
He said: "The whole succession debate has given imperialism hope for
"Since when have the British, the Americans, been friends of Zanu-PF?"
Attacking the "monkey games" he alleged foreign diplomats were playing in
support of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Mr Mugabe
threatened to expel them.
But observers believe he is far more worried about the dangers from within
his party. In particular, he is concerned that the armed forces still seem
loyal to the retired General Mujuru, whose contacts with foreign diplomats
signify his ambition.
Sources close to the Foreign Office in London confirmed that Britain would
be willing to work with any post-Mugabe leader to help restore both the
economy and democracy in Zimbabwe.
The dramatic collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar - which has fallen from $Z9000
to the US dollar to $Z17,500 at its unofficial rate in the past five days -
is another sign of Mr Mugabe's waning authority.
Harare residents awoke at the weekend to find that the price of petrol had
risen overnight from $Z9000 to $Z15,000 a litre, denoting a wholesale flight
out of the currency as traders realised that the local dollar might be worth
nothing if civil order broke down.
Nearly all the city's police have been drafted into huge high-density
shacklands on its periphery. These suburbs have been driven to the edge of
revolt by starvation, unemployment, AIDS and violent repression.
In Highfield township, an MDC stronghold where Morgan Tsvangirai, the party
leader, was brutally beaten after police broke up an opposition prayer
meeting last Monday, the question on everyone's lips was whether this brave
protest would mark the beginning of the end for Mr Mugabe's 27-year rule.
Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and other police chiefs have begun to
worry about their personal safety after firebomb attacks on police housing.
A Mugabe confidant, he was seen loading up on Tuesday at a Harare gunshop
with 250 pistol bullets and 400 shotgun cartridges for his private use.
Contingency plans are ready to move out 700 Australians and as many of the
15,000 British passport holders who choose to leave and to rush in foreign
aid as soon as the regime crumbles. British Special forces are reported to
have reconnoitred escape routes.
If trouble comes, the main aim of the police will be to prevent angry mobs
from marching on the presidential palace and the luxurious homes of the
Zanu-PF party elite. With inflation officially up to 1729 per cent last
month, there are plentiful reasons for the elite to be nervous.
When Mr Mugabe visited his sister Sabina in the Avenues Clinic on Wednesday,
he found that she had been placed in a ward near Grace Kwinjeh, an
opposition activist who had been so badly beaten by police that her right
ear was nearly severed from her head. Mr Mugabe simply ignored her.
With scant information in the state-controlled media, mobile phone networks
jammed last week as people scrambled for news of the beatings, while nightly
power cuts plunged much of the city into darkness.
The pictures of beaten opposition leaders are still unseen in Zimbabwe. Mr
Mugabe showed his contempt for the international response when he said his
critics could "go hang".
The flashpoint for a fresh confrontation may prove to be the burial of Gift
Tandare, an MDC activist and married father of three who was shot dead by
police on his way to last Monday's meeting. Party officials wanted a
high-profile funeral for him in Harare, but the police, fearing unrest,
refused to release the body to his family.
A government spokesman at the weekend confirmed that Tandare had been buried
in secret. His family was forbidden to attend. A presidential spokesman said
it would have been a "defilement" to give up any land for the burial of "the
dead thug's remains".
Police barricaded roads near his home as hundreds of mourners tried to
gather with his young wife in the Shona tradition.
At least 116 MDC activists were still in police detention and the entire
party executive in the Midlands town of Kwekwe has been tortured in police
But even if the MDC musters its full strength and rival factions unite, it
is difficult to see the opposition toppling the regime if the police and
army remain loyal. The main threat to Mr Mugabe may prove to be from within
Zanu-PF, as Joice Mujuru, the 52-year-old Vice-President, battles for power
with Emmerson Mnangagwa, 65, the Rural Housing Minister.
Ms Mujuru, a guerilla commander in the war against Ian Smith, claims to have
single-handedly shot down an army helicopter with her AK-47. Her husband,
the former guerilla leader and the army's boss for 10 years after
independence, is one of the richest men in the country. "I didn't fight the
liberation war to end up a poor man," he once declared.
Both Ms Mujuru and Mr Mnangagwa, the much-feared former head of the Central
Intelligence Organisation, are in effect warlords, one supported by the
armed forces, the other by the secret police.
Mr Mugabe fell out with Ms Mujuru last year when he tried topostpone
elections from 2008 to 2010. The Mujuru faction blocked him.
Mr Mugabe switched his support to Mr Mnangagwa and now says that, at 83, he
wants to stand for president again next year. But he may have a good reason
to back Mr Mnangagwa, who earned a fearsome reputation for atrocities in
Matabeleland in the 1980s and would be more likely to shield Mr Mugabe in
retirement from the possibility of a trial for crimes against humanity.
Relations between Mr Mugabe and the Mujuru camp have never been worse, and
it is clear that virtually the whole of the army high command sides with the
Vice-President, making it unwise for Mr Mugabe to push too hard.
"The fact that the Mujuru faction has the full endorsement of the army makes
the prospect of a coup very real," said a senior civil servant.
One critical question is which way South Africa will lean. The ruling
African National Congress contented itself with a statement referring to
"the alleged mistreatment of opposition leaders in police custody", urging
that "these allegations be thoroughly investigated".
Were President Thabo Mbeki to cut off credit or prevent fuel flowing into
Zimbabwe, he could bring Mr Mugabe to his knees, but his policy is one of
laissez-faire. Mr Mbeki has, however, made it clear that he would like to
see Mr Mnangagwa succeed.
The final factor in this witches' brew is the state of the police and the
army. The lower ranks, in both cases, are in a woeful state - ill paid,
often hungry and, in the case of the police, increasingly fearful of popular
anger. Hundreds of soldiers have deserted.
Mr Mugabe's own presidential guard was given a thorough shake-up in January
after a dispute over pay escalated into a mysterious incident in which shots
were fired. According to usually well-informed sources, 22 men were
An open mutiny from the armed forces is unlikely, but the conditions make it
easy for dissidents in the high command to manipulate the men below them.
Meanwhile, the townships tremble with anger.
The Sunday Times
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
EDITED TRANSCRIPT: FOREIGN SECRETARY DISCUSSES ZIMBABWE ON BBC
POLITICS SHOW, SUNDAY 18 MARCH 2007
I just want to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe. You've condemned
the treatment meted out to Morgan Tsvangirai. Is there anything that we can
Well we are pressing very hard for action to be taken in the UN Human
Rights Council. This is a new body fairly recently set up. This is one of
its first major tests and there's....there's general agreement that that is
the right place to call for action against the government of Robert Mugabe
and so that is what we're doing. Also we are trying to gather information
about the people who are personally responsible for the....the beatings and
what is described in Zimbabwe as the torture that was inflicted on the
opposition leader and some of his supporters in order to make sure that
those people personally are on the list of people who are, you know, being
targeted by the international community and also of course we'll be talking
to other EU colleagues about how we can strengthen the EU's targeted ban.
Do you hold Robert Mugabe responsible?
One can only hold him responsible. He is in charge of the government.
He has made it very clear that this is a deliberate act of policy on the
part of the government of Zimbabwe and that he is indifferent to the real I
think horror that is felt right across the international community.
He said "go hang" didn't he to you and to other western leaders?
I believe that is certainly what he has said, yes.
And therefore don't you think that there's a possibility that you are
seen as the old colonial power and therefore somehow it will sort of
solidify support in his country by taking a tough line against you know
Well it's not only we who have condemned what is happening. One of the
cards that he has played repeatedly and unfortunately very successfully is
to pretend that this is somehow just a dispute between him and the United
Kingdom. It's not. It's true that the United Kingdom is one of the biggest
donors to the people of Zimbabwe and that we are helping to keep a lot of
people alive, keep body and soul together who otherwise would die because of
the neglect and incompetence of the regime in Zimbabwe. What is not true is
either that Britain is the only country in the world that is desperately
concerned at the plight of the Zimbabwean people and the way in which this
recent behaviour is showing diminution of their freedom, that it's not true.
Everyone is concerned and, you know, I do urge.....it's one of the reasons
why we in the British government try to approach the issue in a way which
doesn't give him the excuse to pretend it's all just about the relationship
between him and us because that way it's the people of Zimbabwe who'll
March 18, 2007, 18:45
Lawyers for two veteran Zimbabwe opposition activists, who were denied
passage to South Africa, have brought an urgent application for the
immediate release of their passports.
Last night intelligence officers prevented Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh,
the Brussels representative for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
from travelling to Johannesburg for medical care. The two sustained injuries
after police crushed an opposition prayer rally last weekend.
They are now being kept under police guard at a clinic in Harare. No formal
charges have been brought against them.
Meanwhile, doctors in Harare say Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesperson, is
suspected to have a broken skull after he was severely beaten this morning.
Chamisa was on his way to a meeting in Belgium when he was attacked by
unidentified men on his way to the airport.
MDC demand member's corpse
Lawyers representing the MDC have filed a high court application seeking
government to return the corpse of their slain member. Gift Tandare was
gunned down last weekend.
Lawyers say the government had no legal basis to demand Tandare's corpse.
Yesterday law enforcement agencies took away Tandare's body from Dove, a
local funeral parlour in Harare. Unconfirmed reports say they took him to
his rural home in Mount Darwin.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president - recuperating following last week's
beatings - was to lead the funeral proceedings tomorrow.
Political analysts say government's decision to seize the body is aimed at
averting an MDC gathering that will ultimately trigger uprisings.
March 19, 2007
JOHN Howard will push for a tightening of diplomatic sanctions against
Zimbabwe following days of brutality against opposition activists in the
southern African nation.
In his weekly radio message, the Prime Minister also condemned Zimbabwe's
neighbours for failing to prevent the once-prosperous nation's slide into
economic and democratic ruin.
"One of the major reasons why Robert Mugabe has remained in power and
presided over the terrible destruction of his country is that neighbouring
countries, particularly South Africa, have failed to exert the pressure they
could have brought to bear," Mr Howard said.
"The reality is that only the leaders of these African countries enjoy the
historic leverage to sway Mugabe. Nothing short of his peaceful departure
from office can offer hope to this tragic country."
Australia has imposed progressively strengthened travel bans and financial
sanctions against Mr Mugabe's regime since 2002.
Mr Howard said Australia would work with the international community to
formulate a response to the escalating tensions.
"We'll also be working with other concerned countries to place greater
pressure on the Zimbabwean leadership, including by allowing the situation
to be considered by the UN and its Human Rights Council," he said.
Mr Howard said Australians were appalled by the "barbaric actions of the
Zimbabwean Government in violently suppressing the activities of their
"Australia calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law
and the civil and political rights of its citizens; to cease its violations
of international law and to return Zimbabwe to the fold of civilised
nations," he said.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, said the Australian
cricket team should boycott three one-day internationals scheduled for
September in Zimbabwe and join a sporting embargo similar to the one that
helped end apartheid in South Africa.
"It's worth talking with them (Cricket Australia) and saying: is it
something they really want to do given what is an outrageous abuse of our
principles in Zimbabwe?" he said. "They make the decision but I think we're
entitled to say, 'Is this a good thing, visiting Zimbabwe?'."
Former Zimbabwean cricket captain Andy Flower has called for a sporting
The Government is revising its consular contingency plans in Zimbabwe but
has no immediate plans to evacuate Australians, a Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade spokesman said.
Christian Science Monitor
from the March 19, 2007 edition
Pressure is mounting on Robert Mugabe's regime after opposition leaders were
brutally beaten last week.
By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - The deepening crisis in Zimbabwe, where
President Robert Mugabe's security forces arrested and severely beat
opposition leaders last week, seems to be finally pushing its African
neighbors away from "quiet diplomacy" into tepid protest.
Over the weekend, the African Union joined the US, Britain, and the United
Nations in criticizing the government crackdown, and called on Zimbabwe to
respect human rights. And in South Africa, there are splits within the
ruling African National Congress (ANC) party about whether quiet diplomacy
actually works. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said African leaders should "hang
[their] heads in shame" for not speaking out more forcefully against Mr.
"We call upon the governments of South Africa and the rest of the continent
to condemn the Zimbabwe government, demand the immediate release of those
arrested, and the restoration of human rights," said Patrick Craven,
spokesman of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions, a key base of
support for the ANC. Mr. Craven called the government's response thus far
As Zimbabwe's economy goes into a free fall, and its security forces clamp
down on dissent, African leaders are breaking the taboo against criticizing
Mugabe, who is still seen as a liberation hero for having led the struggle
to free his country from white rule in the 1960s and 70s. Some analysts say
that this change in attitude, together with growing Western pressure, could
signal the beginning of the end for Mugabe's regime if the opposition
sustains a vigorous protest campaign. Others say that if Zimbabwe has indeed
reached a turning point, it may have more to do with machinations within
Mugabe's own party, rather than any international pressure or domestic
Signs of Zimbabwe's implosion
Already the signs of implosion are obvious. Inflation rates are pushing up
to 1,700 percent and most Zimbabweans are living by barter. Food production
has dropped, hospitals are declining, and the average life expectancy of a
Zimbabwean woman, at 35, is now the lowest in the world.
"I can assure Robert Mugabe that this is the end game," said Arthur
Mutambara, leader of a faction within Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) according to Britain's Guardian
newspaper. "We are going to do it by democratic means, by being beaten up
and by being arrested - but we are going to do it."
But it's too early to tell whether Mugabe's regime will collapse, and many
experts say the defining blow will come from within Mugabe's own ruling
ZANU-PF party, with a raging succession battle between two possible heirs.
For now, Mugabe's hold over the Zimbabwean military, police, and
intelligence services remains strong. Most of his cabinet, and both of his
two probable successors - Vice President Joyce Mujuru and Gen. Emmerson
Mnangagwa, the rural housing minister - have ties to the Zimbabwean
Ms. Mujuru's husband, Gen. Solomon Mujuru, reportedly has contacted British,
French, and US envoys in recent weeks, causing Mugabe to warn of a possible
internal coup attempt.
There is "an insidious dimension where ambitious leaders have been cutting
deals with the British and Americans," Mr. Mugabe said on Friday. He also
said Western critics of his crackdown "can go hang."
As for the beating of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and others, Mugabe was
unrepentant. "If they [protest] again, we will bash them again," he said.
Mugabe labels protesters 'terrorists'
Mugabe's strident public utterances have fueled tensions. On Saturday, he
accused the opposition of terrorist attacks. "Scores of innocent people
going about their legitimate business have fallen prey to terrorist attacks
that are part of the desperate and illegal plot to unconstitutionally change
the government of the country," he said, in comments carried by the official
While many Zimbabweans point to such statements, and his shifting of
political heirs from Mujuru to Mnangagwa, as signs that Mugabe is finished,
if not unhinged, others say that Mugabe remains firmly in control.
"Mugabe knows that the unifying factor that has kept people loyal is to have
elections, and if they have elections in 2008, the ZANU-PF will consolidate
around Mugabe, against the MDC," says Chris Maroleng, a leading expert on
Zimbabwe at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Tshwane, South Africa.
"This violence is a cyclical thing," says Mr. Maroleng. "Maybe a year out,
he starts to arrest or harass the opposition, and maybe four months away
from the election, he can ease up on them, but by then the damage is done.
What we are seeing is the preparations for the elections of 2008."
In the streets of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, a tense calm prevails.
Official media reports suggested that a state of emergency might be
declared. But in townships like Glen View, an unofficial state of emergency
already exists, with residents being assaulted by police. Even on First
Street, Harare's main shopping street of department stores, cafes, and
boutiques, riot police were spotted this past week carrying batons, teargas,
In South Africa, pressure for the country to step up criticism of Mugabe is
pushing government officials into a defensive mode. "We have constantly
maintained that the solutions to the problems of Zimbabwe will be resolved
by the people of Zimbabwe," said South African Foreign Affairs Department
spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa.
Yet the MDC's spokesman in South Africa, Kumbulani Sibanda, still holds out
hope that South African President Thabo Mbeki will finally speak out against
Mugabe. "[Mbeki] is out of the country at the moment, and he hasn't spoken
about it yet. Maybe [ANC leaders] are waiting for the president to return
before they decide to say something new."
. A reporter who could not be named for security reasons contributed from
With hot news coming in from Zimbabwe while the Vigil was underway we felt a
bit like a news service, relaying information to the BBC and others. It is
no secret that one of our supporters is Grace Kwinjeh's sister so we knew
immediately when the police stopped Grace and Sekai Holland from flying to
South Africa for treatment of the injuries they received in custody. Other
informed sources phoned to tell us about the CIO hijacking of the body of
Gift Tandare, the MDC activist shot dead last Sunday by the police. We
regard it as part of our job to keep the media informed about what is going
on in Zimbabwe and have had a very successful week doing this. Coverage of
Zimbabwe in the British media has been enormous and most outlets also
reported Wednesday 's demonstration outside the Embassy.
Being St Patrick's Day, as well as the final day of the Six Nations rugby
tournament, there was a high-spirited feeling in London, but the Vigil
sobered up people passing along the Strand with our graphic pictures of a
beaten-up Morgan Tsvangirai, Sekai and Grace. Many people who stopped to
sign our petition expressed disgust at the failure of African countries to
condemn Mugabe's criminality.
Our supporters in Free-Zim Youth are to stage a demonstration outside the
South African High Commission in London from 1 - 3 pm on Wednesday to bring
this disquiet home to South Africa on the anniversary of the Sharpeville
Massacre. They point out that, just as Gift Tandare was shot
indiscriminately, so the people in Sharpeville died. The massacre signalled
the start of armed resistance in South Africa and prompted world-wide
condemnation of the Pretoria government. Readers might like to look at the
weblink we put on the last diary item
(http://www.reuters.com/news/video/videoStory?videoId=23516) showing how
Free-Zim Youth embarrassed the President of the African Union speaking in
Great to welcome lots of new supporters drawn back into action by this week's
horrific events. Among them were several children - including Zizi, baby
son of Vigil co-ordinator Dumi and his wife Gugu. We hope to bring news
soon of more new vigils, but for the moment, let us welcome Belfast who are
to stage their first Vigil next Saturday - see below for details.
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 72 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
- Monday, 19th March, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. The
speaker is Geoff Hill, South Africa correspondent for the Washington Times
and author of "Battle for Zimbabwe" and "What Happens after Mugabe". Our
usual venue is not available to us. We will meet on the first floor - main
bar, Strand Continental Hotel, 143 The Strand, WC2R 15A. From the Vigil a
10-minute walk away from Trafalgar Square after Waterloo Bridge but before
Somerset House. Nearest underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and
Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines).
- Wednesday, 21st March, 1 - 3 pm - join Free-Zim Youth's protest
outside South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DP on the 47th
anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa.
- Saturday, 24th March, 14.00 - 17.00 - the first Belfast Vigil
outside the gates of City Hall. Their second Vigil will be on Wednesday,
18th April, to mark Zimbabwean Independence Day.
- Saturday, 31st March - 11 am - 3 pm. The Bristol Vigil meets under
the covered way, just near the Watershed, Canon's Road, Harbourside.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
18/03/2007 12:26 - (SA)
Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has accused the opposition
party of perpetrating terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in a bid to
oust his government, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Mugabe, 83, has defiantly rejected a torrent of international condemnation
following the beating of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a number of
his colleagues last week.
He says the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is a violent
party sponsored by former colonial power Britain and other Western allies.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark International Women's Day in the capital
Harare on Saturday, Mugabe said the authorities would brook no more lawless
behaviour from the MDC.
"We have given too much room to mischief-makers and shameless stooges of the
West," Mugabe was quoted as saying in the Sunday Mail.
"Scores of innocent people going about their legitimate business have fallen
prey to terrorist attacks that are part of the desperate and illegal plot to
unconstitutionally change the government of the country," he added.
He was addressing government ministers, MPs, religious groups and NGOs at a
belated ceremony to mark International Women's Day under the theme: Ending
Impunity for Violence Against Women.
As he spoke, two badly-beaten female members of the MDC were denied
permission to leave the country to seek medical treatment in neighbouring
South Africa, the opposition said.
Authorities at Harare International Airport said Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai
Holland needed letters of clearance from the health ministry before being
allowed to take a medical air rescue flight to South Africa.
Meanwhile an opposition leader was still in police custody on Sunday,
following his arrest at Harare International Airport, his party said.
Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC,
was arrested on Saturday as he tried to travel to neighbouring South Africa
to visit his wife.
He was being held at Harare Central Police Station.
Mutambara was one of dozens of opposition officials and civic rights
activists rounded up by police last Sunday as they tried to hold a prayer
rally in Harare's Highfield suburb.
Many of those detained - including party founding president Tsvangirai -
were badly beaten in custody, provoking an international outcry. A High
Court ordered their release earlier this week.
Defence lawyer Beatrice Mutambara said Mutambara's arrest and detention on
Saturday was a contemptuous, arrogant and malicious defiance of the High
"We are therefore proceeding to apply on an urgent basis for the release of
our client from the unlawful detention," she said in a letter to the officer
commanding law and order at Harare Central Police Station, a copy of which
was seen by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Mutambara's MDC said in a statement late on Saturday that police wanted to
charge their leader with inciting public violence.
From Angola Press, 18 March
Harare - The Zimbabwean government, under intense international pressure for
reported human rights abuse, has turned to diplomacy to try and sustain the
support of its wavering friends. The country has been hammered after several
opposition and civic rights leaders were arrested and severely beaten by
police last weekend for holding unauthorised rallies. Some of the opposition
leaders, including President Robert Mugabe`s main challenger Morgan
Tsvangirai, had to be hospitalised for injuries from the assaults, while in
other related violence police shot dead an anti-government protester. Images
of battered opposition leaders, and burnt vehicles, galvanised international
revulsion against the Harare government, including among traditional
Zimbabwean friends such as neighbouring Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania
and Zambia. For the first time, the country`s neighbours expressed concern
at the situation in the country, and urged Zimbabwean authorities to be more
tolerant of dissent. Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete visited Harare Thursday
for urgent talks with Mugabe. The harshest criticism of Zimbabwe has from
Europe and the US, which are now planning to tighten their smart sanctions
on the country.
But it was indications of wavering by traditional allies that has prompted
Harare authorities to launch a diplomatic offensive. Late Friday Foreign
Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi summoned ambassadors from the regional
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), other African countries, the
Non-Aligned Movement, China and Russia for a crisis-management briefing.
"You are our closet allies and therefore it is right and proper that you get
information from us," he told the envoys. "You are the ones we interact with
so its important that we share notes." Officials said diplomats from
European countries would be invited next week by Mumbengegwi for similar
briefings, although the authorities do not expect much sympathy from them.
Mugabe, accusing Western ambassadors here of fomenting and financing the
opposition`s campaigns of defiance, has even threatened to expel the envoys.
March 18 2007 at 05:37PM
By Andrew Quinn
Cape Town - Zimbabwe's economic collapse is likely to accelerate with
inflation topping 5 000 percent by year-end as President Robert Mugabe's
government loses control of a crisis already rippling across Africa, a
senior IMF official said on Sunday.
International Monetary Fund Africa Director Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane said
Zimbabwe's government had shown little sign of coming to grips with its
mounting economic problems, promising more hardships amid sharply rising
"It depends on how much the people in the country can take,"
Bio-Tchane told Reuters in an interview.
"The question is how far it could fall. The last four years we've seen
GDP falling by more than 35 percent. Inflation is running at more than 1 700
percent and our estimate is by the year's end it could move even beyond 5
Bio-Tchane's forecast came as Mugabe's government comes under rising
international condemnation over a violent crackdown on the opposition this
In response, the United States and other nations threatened to tighten
sanctions against Mugabe and other senior Zimbabwean officials.
Mugabe, 83, has warned against any "monkey games" by those he called
the stooges of his Western critics and said police would now be well armed
to deal with violence caused by the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Bio-Tchane said Mugabe and Zimbabwe Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono
appeared unable to stem the economic slide, which has turned one of Africa's
most promising economies into a basket case beset by frequent shortages of
food, fuel and foreign exchange.
"It is one step forward, two steps back," he said, saying Gono was
fuelling the crisis by expanding the already enormous fiscal deficit to some
40 percent of GDP this year, printing floods of new cash and subsidising
struggling state-run firms.
"They need to rein this in," he said. "But obviously they need more
than that. You can't let the economy function if people are not free to
operate, if their rights are not secured, including human rights."
"You will always find a few people who will benefit from this system,
so therefore it may continue. I can't give a date when the whole thing will
stop or collapse. But it will certainly continue falling. This will continue
impoverishing people, people will continue losing their jobs, continue
losing their purchasing power."
Bio-Tchane said Zimbabwe's woes were already felt across Africa as
millions of economic refugees stream out of the country, mostly to
neighbouring South Africa, while economic growth is hampered by the loss of
regional trade and investment opportunities.
"It's holding the sub-region back, and it is holding the whole Africa
region back," he said. "This was a booming economy, this was a net exporter
of goods and services in the past. Now exports are falling. It is a country
that is a net importer today."
He added that it appeared some countries were helping to bankroll
Mugabe through loans or other deals.
"We don't have evidence of the sources, but clearly they are getting
some financing," he said.
The IMF and other key Western donors, including the World Bank,
suspended aid to Zimbabwe more than six years ago over Mugabe's economic
policies that are blamed for the economic meltdown.
Western donors withdrew aid and other assistance, accusing Mugabe of
widespread human rights violations and for seizing white-owned farms, which
has turned the country from a regional bread basket to a nation barely able
to feed itself.
Despite the problems, Bio-Tchane said Zimbabwe could quickly access
outside help once it made the necessary economic reforms.
While the IMF in February maintained its suspension of financial and
technical assistance to Zimbabwe, Bio-Tchane said efforts to repay some $129
million in arrears to the fund had kept open its chances to obtain immediate
"They could be quickly eligible for technical assistance. And for
funds, I must say, in the case of Zimbabwe it is really the political
commitments of the government that are preventing everyone from
cooperating." - Reuters
A withdrawal of South Africa's support for Robert Mugabe would be decisive.
But Thabo Mbeki seems unlikely to bring himself to do it.
The appeals to South Africa to "do something" about Zimbabwe are unlikely to
have much influence on president Thabo Mbeki. Despite expressions of concern
emerging from Pretoria - and clear embarrassment in other parts of Africa -
about the latest events in Zimbabwe, there is nothing to indicate a change
"The ANC is concerned about the current situation in Zimbabwe, including
reports of the alleged assault of opposition leaders while in police
custody," said an ANC spokesman, Smuts Ngonyama, making it clear that his
party regarded the situation as no more than that - reports of allegations.
"We further reiterate our call to all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to continue
to seek peaceful and inclusive solutions," he added, in words which indicate
that any solution needs to be acceptable to president Robert Mugabe, a man
whose readiness to use violence against his citizens is notorious.
The ability of South Africa, strategically, to control Zimbabwe was
demonstrated back in 1976 when prime minister John Vorster, at the
instigation of US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, pulled the plug on Ian
Smith. But if the goal is achievable, Mbeki shows little taste for scoring
When Mbeki adopts a policy position that proves unpopular, over which he is
criticised, he is quite capable of becoming obsessive about it. There is
Aids, of course: Mbeki's determined espousal of the denialist cause is
something of a touchstone to the man and his presidency.
Then there was his attendance at Haiti's bicentenary celebrations (after a
donation of R10m towards costs), which ended up in in gunfire and president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide going into exile in South Africa was one example. The
Haitian celebrations were of Africa's first black liberation struggle, in
which Mbeki was determined to take pride. Instead, it was a debacle.
And Zimbabwe? Well, Mugabe, perhaps understanding Africa and Mbeki better
than most, has ever been ready to blame whites for his country's
misfortunes. And, in that context, Mbeki would be damned if he were to be
seen as the man who pulled the plug on another African leader.
You can sign a petition to get rid of Mugabe here on the 10 Downing Street