Zimbabwe's Mugabe tightens grip to prevent Mubarak-style sendoff
President Robert Mugabe's security forces have arrested democracy activists for watching videos of the Tunisian revolt and have also detained members of the opposition party.
The detention of one of Zimbabwe’s leading human rights campaigners, Munyaradzi Gwisai, and 44 other activists will continue through the weekend, following a Harare court decision Tuesday. Mr. Gwisai, a University of Zimbabwe professor, was arrested with other participants for meeting to discuss the North African uprisings, a sign of just how seriously President Robert Mugabe is about ensuring that an Egyptian-style uprising doesn’t occur against his regime.Skip to next paragraph
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Gwisai, who is secretary general of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), and the others, are facing treason charges and could face the death penalty. Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who is representing them, says his clients were tortured while in police custody, and the court has since ordered that they get medical care.
The arrests come amid a broad clampdown by President Mugabe. In the past month, more than 100 people, mostly activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been arrested. In addition, political violence, spearheaded by Zanu-PF militia in Harare’s slums, has forced more than 1,000 MDC supporters to go into hiding.
“This is part of a larger crackdown on the MDC supporters and on civil society groups,” says Tiseke Kasambala, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Johannesburg. “Because of ... proposed elections coming up later this year, Mugabe isn’t taking any chances. He will not tolerate dissent.”
The police last week arrested Joe Sikhala, leader of a breakaway faction of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, charging him with kidnapping two people in the diamond fields of Chiadzwa, in Manicaland. But analysts said Sikhala’s arrest was aimed at preventing him and others from mobilizing a One Million March against Mugabe that was planned for March 1.