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crackdown on Zimbabwe opposition
March 28, 2007
HARARE - Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), and several other members of his party were detained
in a police raid in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday, said party
officials and lawyers. Police denied picking up Tsvangirai but confirmed
a crackdown on "perpetrators of violence".
was about to address a press conference on the abduction of Ian
Makoni [MDC party member] and his wife last night [Tuesday], when
the police came and cordoned the road outside the MDC head office
and picked up every single person in the office," said Tendai Biti,
MDC secretary-general. He could not confirm the number of people
in the office at the time.
of the opposition members came as President Robert Mugabe was reportedly
scheduled to attend a South African Development Community (SADC)
meeting in Tanzania on Thursday and Friday, called to discuss the
situation Zimbabwe. The meeting will be attended by the SADC's security
'troika', Angola, Tanzania and Namibia, as well as current SADC
chair Lesotho, outgoing chair Botswana, and incoming chair Zambia.
Otto Saki, an
attorney with Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO that defends victims of rights
abuses, confirmed that Tsvangirai and other opposition members had
been "arrested". "But we still don't know on what grounds, and we
have not been allowed to access them."
in Zimbabwe, a coalition of more than 300 civil society organisations,
said Tsvangirai had been arrested when he was about to announce
Makoni's abduction by unknown assailants, who were suspected of
being military intelligence officers.
that Tsvangirai had also planned to deny the involvement of the
MDC in the recent spate of petrol bombings around the country, but
truckloads of heavily armed police arrived to raid the MDC office.
Wayne Bvudzijena, the national police spokesman, has confirmed that
the police raided the MDC office and "picked up some people last
was not among the people we picked up this morning [Wednesday] as
part of our campaign to look for perpetrators of violence," he told
sources told IRIN that Tsvangirai had been arrested but released
later in the afternoon.
one of Tsvangirai's lawyers, said he had been told that the MDC
leader had been arrested but was waiting to get further details
on why his client had been detained.
"I am aware
that Tsvangirai was arrested but I am still in the dark about what
is happening. Right now, I don't have details of his arrest," Muchadehama
told IRIN late on Wednesday afternoon.
Scores of police
officers in riot gear, wielding AK-47 assault rifles, barricaded
all the roads around Harvest House, the MDC headquarters in Harare,
the city centre there was an unusually heavy presence of policemen,
some of whom told IRIN that they had been hurriedly summoned from
police stations from across the capital to beef up security in anticipation
some people decided to leave their workplaces in the afternoon,
while some businesses, especially small retail shops, sent their
workers home as early as 10 in the morning.
there was no evidence of people gathering, I sent my workers home
in the morning because, in the past, my shop has been the target
of criminals who take advantage of the breakout of violence. With
so many police officers around, anything can happen," said Tichaona
Makwiro, the owner of a shop that sells electrical goods in the
been simmering for the past two months, but the situation has taken
a violent turn since the police imposed a ban on political rallies
in February. About two weeks ago, there were running battles with
the police ahead of a planned prayer meeting in Harare, in which
an opposition supporter was shot dead by the police, and opposition
leaders, including Tsvangirai, were arrested and allegedly beaten
while in custody.
protests to highlight the worsening economic situation have now
given way to bombings of police stations, a passenger train and
a supermarket, among other targets across the country.
In an extraordinary
move, the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport and communications,
which is dominated by ruling ZANU-PF party legislators and chaired
by Leo Mugabe, President Robert Mugabe's nephew, expressed its displeasure
last week over the attack on Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson for
one of the MDC factions.
attacked and beaten by unknown assailants at Harare International
Airport while he was preparing to travel to Brussels for a meeting
of parliamentarians from African, Caribbean and Pacific states as
well as the European Union. He had to be hospitalised.
the committee] have raised this concern [lax security] with regards
to what happened to HonourableChamisa. It happened at the airport,
and we call for the need to ensure high security so that we do not
have a repeat of what happened," Mugabe said. He suggested that
members of parliament always be escorted to the airport to ensure
a former ZANU-PF official, commented: "The MDC is a properly registered
party that has been in existence since 1999, and that means its
views should be respected by the police, government and political
opponents," Sibanda told IRIN. "It becomes unacceptable when members
of the MDC are beaten up as though they belonged to a criminal formation."
is expected next week as the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions has announced a two-day job stayaway
to protest falling standards of living, 80 percent unemployment
and a fast-deteriorating economy, marked by inflation of more than
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