THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe drops charges against activists
Alec Russell, Financial Times (UK)
October 09, 2007

Zimbabwean state prosecutors have dropped charges against 22 activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in a rare climb down by the autocratic regime of President Robert Mugabe.

The defendants, who included a member of parliament, were arrested between March and April as part of a crackdown on the MDC, which included a brutal assault on Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of one its wings, and his supporters.

The activists were accused of being trained in South Africa to commit "terrorism" and of responsibility for a series of petrol bomb attacks on official buildings. The MDC denied the charges and said the attacks were carried out by state agents provocateurs to justify a clampdown on the opposition.

Defence lawyers on Tuesday said the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence. But the withdrawal prompted speculation that the move was linked to pressure on the government from South Africa, which is hosting mediation talks between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the MDC over the country's economic and political crisis.

"Two weeks ago we wrote to Thabo Mbeki [the president of South Africa] warning that if the harassment continued there was no reason we should stay in the talks," said Eddie Cross, a senior official in Mr Tsvangirai's wing of the MDC.

"We instructed our negotiating team that if nothing was done we would back off. It might be that Mr Mbeki has applied pressure behind the scenes and with rapid results."

At the weekend Mr Mbeki suggested mediation talks were close to meeting most of the opposition's demands.

The collapse of the case came as the government stepped up its campaign to intervene in the last remaining functioning areas of the economy. Inflation in Zimbabwe is the highest in the world. The official rate is nearly 7,000 per cent but economists believe it is several times that figure.

Businessmen fear that the new Indigenisation and Empowerment bill, which calls for the state to have a 51 per cent stake in foreign-owned businesses, will be the last blow to the economy.

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.