Sunday, 15th April 2007
It looks like someone exercised some common sense yesterday. And about time too!
President Robert Mugabe's government has in the last two months used riot police to break up opposition rallies.
Main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and dozens of other members of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sustained serious injuries on March 11 after being arrested by police at an aborted prayer rally in the capital Harare.
In Bulawayo, journalists said police officers, in uniform and in plain clothes, watched opposition figures, labour and student leaders, rights activists and clerics filing in and out of a township church for the protest prayer meeting."
Wonders will never cease!
It makes such a difference to hear that a prayer meeting was allowed to proceed and that the situation did not deteriorate into violence, beating, arrests and a repeat of the orgy of oppression we saw last month.
This does not mean that the ruling party have done with the beatings etc, but that for some reason they saw reason and long may that continue...
"They did not stop the meeting but they watched from some distance, from a police station near the church," one journalist told Reuters by telephone from Bulawayo, southwest of Zimbabwe.
On Friday the government said it might stop the gathering because it could be turned into an illegal opposition protest.
Organisers of the vigil, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, said in a statement on Saturday they were determined to defy any attempt to stop the prayer meeting despite fears of a police crackdown.
"The leadership of the campaign once again reiterates its commitment to the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis in total defiance of the brutality being perpetrated by the state security agents," it said. "We deplore the use of violence by those that are in power."
The secretary general of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation Kumi Naidoo told a prayer meeting in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo that the "SADC and AU should be closed down if they cannot take action in the collective interests of the citizens they represent.
"Even minus the politics, the economic meltdown is evident and as Southern African citizens we are getting fed up of their non assertive action."
I can do little but agree with Naidoo - and indeed I have been asking for probably as long as this blog has been functional, why does no one do anything about the crisis in Zimbabwe?
"Scores converged at a church in Zimbabwe's second city Saturday for the prayer meeting convened by a coalition of rights and opposition groups for an end to the political and economic crisis in the country.
The meeting, organised by groups under the aegis of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, was attended by at least 300 people including Church leaders, from Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries, rights activists and leaders of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)."
300 people may not sound a lot, but the fact that these people were allowed to sit in a prayer meeting without police stopping proceedings, or arresting the various secular and political figures, is a huge moral victory.
It is, to me, proof that the Zimbabwean people are as brave as they come. They went into the prayer meeting knowing that at the click of a finger, it could have degenerated into a repeat of last month's beatings.
Probably very poignant for me to say, "Thank God."
I have long queried the world's inaction to stopping Mugabe with his rampant oppression - and I have yet to understand the world's attitude towards him and his government.
Lawyer Alec Mucahdehama said the prosecution claimed Member of Parliament Paul Madzore and his co-accused underwent training as "bandits, saboteurs, insurgents or terrorists."
"The prosecutor Austin Muzivi alleged that between December last year and March this year, the 13 went to Pretoria and Orange Free State in South Africa to undergo military training on how to terrorise the government," Muchadehama told AFP.
The prosecutor "added that they were taught to make and use firebombs", said Muchadehama.
The group was among scores of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC, opposition) officials and supporters who were arrested in what police said was a crackdown on fire bombers accused of a series of attacks across the southern African country."
I will watch this case, but rather think that it will sink into the mire of administration chaos in the judiciary - rather like the 'assassination conspiracy' that Peter Hitschman from Mutare has faced for the past 14 months.
"Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has denied accusations that MDC members were behind the spate of bombings, saying they were were framed.
"The false allegations against the MDC are not new," Tsvangirai said in a statement on Thursday.
"You will recall that a few months after the presidential elections of 2002, malevolent charges of treason were bought against me. These things are not new to us. For months in 2002 we were labelled terrorists and saboteurs."
But Mugabe sticks to his guns, and he does not know the meaning of the word 'mercy' - this man's life is ruined - his health is life-threatening... What else is there that the Mugabe government can do to him that could make it any worse?
"Zimbabwe's authorities are risking the life of Simon Mann, the Old Etonian and former SAS officer accused of plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea, by denying him critical surgery, say his lawyers.
Mann, who has spent the last three years in a high security prison outside the capital, Harare, needs an urgent hernia operation to avoid "life-threatening complications".
His lawyers wrote to Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, asking for Mann to be transferred to a private hospital for the operation. The specialist who had agreed to carry it out, Dr Edwin Muguti, is also deputy health minister in President Robert Mugabe's regime.
"Our client has been very sick and after undergoing some tests he was identified to be suffering from a hernia by the prison doctor," wrote Mann's lawyers.
They asked for "permission for our client to be operated on" and to remain in hospital for a recovery period. This request was made in January. So far, the authorities have not replied and Mann has not received any treatment. The alleged mercenary leader was arrested at Harare international airport three years ago. Mann was detained along with 69 other alleged mercenaries who were supposedly bound for the oil-rich West African state of Equatorial Guinea, where they planned to overthrow the regime."
I am not very surprised that they have had no reply to their entreaty. For some reason the Mugabe government seems to think that a humanitarian gesture will reflect them as weak.
Far from it!
"Mann is due to be released from prison next month. But he is fighting an attempt by Equatorial Guinea's regime to extradite him.
If his latest legal battle fails, Mann will be consigned to Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea's capital, Malabo, where conditions are so harsh that some inmates have starved to death."
"Two men and a lady knocked down my door and threw all my things out. They said I have a poisoned political mind because I attended an MDC rally," she told me. "Now I am homeless."
Batsirai is the victim of a new wave of political evictions, a Mugabe election tactic to disperse supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), making it difficult or impossible for them to vote in next year's elections.
For Batsirai and many of her friends and neighbours this is the second time they have been victimised. In 2005, Mugabe's notorious Operation Murambatsvina (Clear Out The Trash) resulted in hundreds of thousands of destroyed homes and displaced families. The international outcry was so great the government hurriedly built basic dwellings for the homeless. In Harare the new buildings - some little more than rough shelters - were sited in the Hopley and Whitecliffe suburbs."
I notice that this latest onslaught is much quieter than the original and are much more targeted.
Gone are the bulldozers and the ruined houses, but the people themselves are being thrown out. And Mugabe complains about about targeted sanctions - is this not the same?
"Already more than 20 families in Hopley have been evicted, all previously identified as MDC supporters. Without a permanent address they will be unable to vote.
The evictions are also designed to terrify. Another MDC man told me: "We no longer wear our MDC badges around here. To do so is to risk your house - and even your life."
The campaign, known as Fair Deal, is being pushed by Diasporans based in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and other parts of Europe."
Too right. Why should the children of these people be allowed free travel worldwide? Their status in life is a direct reflection on their parent's positions within Mugabe's government.
Why should they be allowed to enjoy the fruit of the outside world, and, bring some of it home for their families when they return?
"The campaign has reportedly gained wide popularity among Zimbabweans who feel the children of senior ZANU PF and government officials must not continue to enjoy the benefits of Western education, health democracy and freedom which their parent are denying their fellow Zimbabweans back home.
"We do not hate these poor kids," reads a message posted on the website. "We love them. We want them to be with their parents."
I agree. It's such a shame to break up a family for want of a better life.
The campaign has a letter which puts the whole situation very neat in writing:
"I and all my fellow countrymen are angered and disappointed to learn of the presence of those that are directly benefiting from Mugabe's regime in this country.
We believe they do not have the right to enjoy a society that has freedom of expression, speech, association and other basic freedoms that are denied people in Zimbabwe.
Not only are our fundamental freedoms in Zimbabwe denied, but alos our right to live. Any dissent against the government is met with the highest possible punishment: death."