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NCA Harare & Gweru offices sealed off by heavily armed police
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
July 27, 2007

The headquarters of the National Constitutional Assembly in Harare, and provincial offices in Gweru, were still under police guard on Friday, two days after police embarked on a violent crackdown on the organisation. The pressure group reports that the offices are still closed and guarded by heavily armed police and soldiers and NCA staff are barred from entering the premises. NCA coordinator Tapera Kapuya said arrests are still continuing as more activists are being hunted down countrywide. Many people were beaten and arrested on Wednesday during countrywide demonstrations for a people driven constitution. Scores of activists were arrested in Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Harare. NCA chairperson Dr Lovemore Madhuku said more than 170 people received hospital treatment in Harare after they were assaulted while in police custody. Those beaten included elderly women and nursing mothers. Several people are still in Hospital at the Avenues, Dandaro and West End Clinics.

The NCA coordinator said the atmosphere was extremely tense, especially in Harare on Friday, where there was a heavy presence of members of the police and military. Describing the situation at the NCA office he said: "In the morning there was a tanker, one of those riot police tankers and a military van. There are a number of police and military personnel who remain at the gates of the NCA headquarters in Harare. This is the same scenario at the NCA Gweru office." The group said it's apparent, given the display of force, that this is all about intimidation, but the NCA said there is nothing that will "put the breaks into their resolve to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes a democracy." The violence and arbitrary arrests continue against the backdrop of a SADC initiative to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. Observers say the actions of the Zimbabwean government clearly show the regime's contempt for regional institutions and many believe African leaders have taken sides and are backing the regime, not the people of Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe himself was quoted by the New African Magazine in March saying South African President Thabo Mbeki backed his government. He said, "And in Dar-es-Salaam President Mbeki put it very clearly. He said, `The fight against Zimbabwe is a fight against us all. Today it is Zimbabwe, tomorrow it will be South Africa, it will be Mozambique, it will be Angola, it will be any other African country. And any government that is perceived to be strong, and to be resistant to imperialists, would be made a target and would be undermined. So let us not allow any point of weakness in the solidarity of the SADC, because that weakness will also be transferred to the rest of Africa." Mbeki later said that statement was taken out of context but critics say the 'deafening' silence by SADC leaders is shameful as the brutal oppression of anyone perceived to be an opponent of the Zimbabwe government continues.

Here is a Q&A with Tapera Kapuya of Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, NCA, Office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Subject: Hundreds of NCA members were brutally assaulted by riot police in Zimbabwe on Wednesday 25 July 2007:

Who is hurt?

TK: The current figures show that approximately 150 are in hospitals in Harare. Among them is Ernest Mudzengi, the NCA's national director. We know that seven people, who are severely injured in Mutare are also in hospital. We are verifying other information about those detained elsewhere and injuries. As soon as we know more we will be able to provide detailed information.

What is the profile of those injured?

TK: Most of the injured are women. We know that two women have fractured ribs, we have reports that there are others with broken limbs.

So what happend?

TK: Police in two B18 000 white Mazda pick up trucks stormed the NCA offices on Herbert Chitepo Ave. They opened gun fire, shooting into the air. They were wearing riot gear, and they detonanted tear gas at the office. They beat up staff members and members of the public who were at the NCA offices on other matters of business.

What is the reason for this brutal assault?

TK: The NCA staged a series of protest marches in all the major cities around Zimbabwe: Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Masvingo to register awareness on the need for a new people driven constitution. We also wanted to raise public awareness on the implications of the planned 18th constitutional amendment on governance, citizens rights to elect leaders of their choice, which will now become the business of Parliament and the implcations of the expanded legsialature on the national fiscus, in a country with such deep poverty. In the context of the SADC initiated mediation process there is need for a democratic process to achieve national consensus without excluding the genrality of Zimbabweans.

What does the attack on the NCA's members and staff mean?

TK: It points at the fact that the state is keen on using repressive methods to contain all forms of public discontent about it. It indicates what is likely to happen to citizens more and more as we come closer to the elections. It also reveals a state that is contemptuous of the regional efforts that are underway to seek mutual and peaceful efforts at resolving the national crisis.

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