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crackdown hits "ordinary" Zimbabweans - group
Paul Simao, Reuters
November 29, 2007
Zimbabwean police are
beating up people suspected of supporting the main opposition party
as a crackdown on dissent spreads beyond political circles, a researcher
with Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
who earlier this month visited Zimbabwe for the U.S.-based human
rights group, said she had met Zimbabweans who were savagely abused
by police after being accused of ties to the Movement for Democratic
"The police have
been going door-to-door beating people up," Kasambala said
in a news conference in Johannesburg a day after she returned from
a two-week research trip to the politically volatile southern African
"The crackdown has
spread. It is not just targeted at the opposition but also at ordinary
Zimbabweans," she said.
Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe met Southern African leaders in Tanzania at a special summit
on Thursday to address Zimbabwe's crisis. Western leaders are urging
a tough response.
In Harare, MDC Secretary-General
Tendai Biti accused Mugabe's government of carrying out more than
250 assaults over the last few weeks as well as abductions of opposition
officials and civilians as part of a "guerrilla" war to
hang on to power.
"A low-key, high-intensity
war has been unleashed by the state on civilians ... the state is
behaving like a guerrilla outfit," Biti said in a news conference
on Thursday at MDC headquarters in the capital Harare.
"Hundreds, and this
is not a metaphor, of lower level officials are being abducted ...,"
said the senior MDC official, who took reporters on a tour of the
party's offices, which he said were vandalised by police during
a raid on Wednesday.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
and other MDC activists were briefly arrested Wednesday afternoon
shortly before they were to hold a news conference. Authorities
said the arrests were in connection with a spate of petrol bombings.
It was the second time
in less than a month that police had detained Tsvangirai and other
opposition members. The MDC leader and dozens of others said they
were beaten in police custody after an aborted March 11 anti-Mugabe
protest in Harare.
The Zimbabwean capital
remains the focal point of the MDC's campaign to oust Mugabe. Kasambala
said police and government intelligence officers patrolled in large
numbers in the city, concentrating on crowded neighbourhoods.
are everywhere," she said.
The police repression
has drawn sharp international protests and renewed calls for African
nations to tackle Mugabe's 27-year rule in Zimbabwe, which now faces
its worst economic crisis in decades along with escalating political
In power since independence
from Britain in 1980, the 83-year-old Mugabe says he is the victim
of a Western-sponsored campaign to overthrow his government in retribution
for his policy of seizing white-owned farms to give to landless
Human Rights Watch was
among those to call on the Southern African Develoment Community
(SADC), which includes Zimbabwe's influential neighbour South Africa,
to condemn the violence in Harare and urge Mugabe to investigate
the allegations of police brutality and rights abuses.
"Zimbabwe is a threat
to stability and peace in the southern Africa region," Kasambala
said. "The crisis is almost reaching a breaking point."
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