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  • Rights groups slam politicians over jailed activists
    February 09, 2009

    Rights groups on Saturday criticised Zimbabwean political leaders for beating their chests about progress towards formation of a unity government while forgetting detained Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists.

    About 30 opposition MDC activists, including 72-year-old Fidelis Chiramba and Ghandi Mudzingwa - a former personal assistant of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, are languishing in jail for more than three months after they were abducted from their homes or work places on terrorism-related charges.

    "He (Chiramba) is the most extreme case amongst all political prisoners who remain incarcerated whilst politicians congratulate themselves about progress made in moving towards the establishment of an inclusive government," director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Irene Petras told reporters.

    Zimbabwe's political rivals are in the process of forming a unity government as directed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) two weeks ago.

    President Robert Mugabe will remain head of state in the coalition government while MDC leader Tsvangirai becomes Prime Minister and rebel opposition faction leader Arthur Mutambara takes up one of the two Deputy Premier's posts.

    "We believe that the manner in which Mr Chiramba and his fellow political prisoners are being treated is a reflection of the lack of sincerity of politicians in ensuring that the security of all persons in Zimbabwe remains paramount," Petras said.

    Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights Douglas Gwatidzo also condemned the continued detentions, saying the activists had been severely tortured and were "in danger and need adequate attention and care in a functional hospital".

    "Mr Chiramba continues to be denied access to adequate medical treatment," Gwatidzo said, adding; "He was taken to the Avenues Clinic for treatment. He exhibited evidence of congestive cardiac failure secondary to severe hypertension. He still exhibits evidence of soft tissue injuries secondary to his assault."

    Meanwhile, retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu said on Saturday that he doubts Zimbabwe's unity government can work, insisting the solution to the country's crisis is the departure of Mugabe.

    "I haven't changed," he told the media on Saturday. "He's had an innings. It was a good innings and then he messed up. Let him step down."

    Zimbabwe has been hit by a cholera outbreak that the UN says has killed 3 229 people and infected 62 909 others across the country - the worst death toll in Africa from an outbreak of the normally preventable disease in 15 years -compounding the southern African country's humanitarian crisis.

    Zimbabweans hope the unity government would help ease the political situation and allow the country to focus on tackling the economic crisis and humanitarian crisis.

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