Thursday, June 5, 2008
detention of presidential contender Morgan Tsvangirai by Zimbabwean
police for nearly 12 hours on 4 June is another instance of the
orchestrated harassment of opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) supporters and other organisations regarded as out of step with
the 28-year rule of President Robert Mugabe, according to analysts.
International, one of the largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
operating in Zimbabwe, has been ordered to suspend its operations for
alleged political activity, as have others.
Media reports on 5
June said a convoy of British and US diplomatic staff investigating
reports of election violence north of the capital were stopped by a
police roadblock at Bindura, 80km from Harare, where the tyres of their
vehicles were slashed and a Zimbabwean driver was hauled from one of
the diplomatic cars and beaten by police.
Sean McCormack, the
US State Department spokesman, said in a televised briefing from
Washington that the incident was "unacceptable", had caused "deep
distress" and was the action of a government that "does not know any
bounds"; the US would take up the incident in the Security Council.
spokesman Nelson Chamisa told IRIN that party leader Tsvangirai, his
deputy, Thokozani Khupe, party chairperson Lovemore Moyo, as well as
other senior party officials and their security detail were stopped at
a roadblock, and then held at Lupane police station, north of Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe's second city.
Tsvangirai, who claims that election
rigging cost him victory in the 29 March presidential vote, will
contest the run-off ballot on 27 June. He left Zimbabwe soon after the
March elections, in which ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the
first time since independence in 1980, and very recently returned to
Zimbabwe. He sustained head injuries last year from a beating in police
custody and has twice been charged with treason.
the party had confirmed the killings of 60 MDC supporters since
the March ballot, but this was "a conservative figure", as ZANU-PF had
established "no-go" areas where people were "being killed, buried and
One of the people killed was a local MDC
organiser, Tonderai Ndira, who had been arrested 35 times and was taken
from his house on 14 May by six armed, masked men.
decomposing body was found a few weeks later. According to reports, a
preliminary autopsy by an independent South African pathologist said
"it was clear that he died very soon after he was abducted."
Absence of election observers
promise of a heavier presence by the few election observer missions
approved by the government had not led to an increase in their
"visibility" Chamisa said.
was no indication that observers from the African Union, the Pan
African Parliament and the Southern African Development Community had
deployed to violence hotspots in the northern and western provinces of
Mashonaland West, Central and East, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands.
president of an MDC breakaway faction, Arthur Mutambara, was released
on bail after his arrest under the controversial Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act - a few days before Tsvangirai was taken
into custody - for allegedly writing falsehoods and "undermining public
confidence in the army".
In an article titled A Shameful
Betrayal of Independence, Mutambara, whose party won more than 10
legislative seats in the March elections wrote: "Our country is
characterised by extreme illegitimacy, where we have an imbecilic and
cynical military junta running the affairs of the country."
also accused the High Court of aiding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
— accused of favouring ZANU-PF — in delaying the announcement of the 29
March election results.
was a long delay in announcing the winning party candidates in the
election of municipal councils, the senate, parliament, and for the
presidency. The opposition charged that the delay enabled election
Davison Maruziva, the editor of Zimbabwe's
independent newspaper, The Standard, was arrested for publishing the
article and is also on bail.
Political analyst John Makumbe
said the recent "spate" of arrests was part of a strategy to intimidate
government critics ahead of the presidential poll run-off on 27 June.
government is harassing defenders of people's rights — politicians,
civic society members, media practitioners and even clerics - on the
assumption that it will cow them into submission, but ZANU-PF ought to
know that no amount of coercion will change people's views," Makumbe
He said the police were targeting people who held
views contrary to those of the government, and "The state media is full
of slanderous content, just as ZANU-PF is pregnant with torturers and
murderers but the culprits are never arrested." Makumbe claimed the
run-off would not be free and fair because of the harassment of critics
and members of the opposition.
On 31 May Eric Matinenga, a
human rights lawyer who won a parliamentary seat for the MDC, was
arrested. Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said in a statement on 2
June that Matinenga was arrested for incitement in rural Buhera, in
Manicaland Province. Matinenga has instituted court action to bar the
deployment of soldiers in his constituency, on the grounds that they
were spearheading a terror campaign.
Military loyal to Mugabe
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an NGO lobbying for a new,
people-driven constitution, has accused the military of acting
unconstitutionally by manipulating soldiers to support Mugabe.
state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, quoted Maj-Gen Martin
Chedondo as telling soldiers: "the Constitution says the country should
be protected by voting, and in the 27 June presidential election
run-off, pitting our defence chief, Comrade Robert Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai of the MDC, we should therefore stand behind our
Chedondo said the army was not
expected to be apolitical and should protect ZANU-PF principles,
otherwise members should resign.
NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku
told IRIN: "The constitution is clear; it does not allocate to the
military any political functions and for it to come out so brazenly on
the side of a political candidate simply demonstrates the army's
The heads of the army, police and prison
services have already publicly stated that they will not accept a
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org