Zimbabwe Crisis Reports Issue 1, Mar 2007



March 11 - Police arrested around 50 opposition leaders and supporters to prevent them attending a prayer meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds,Harare.A rank-and-file supporter,Gift Tandare,was shot dead.People who saw the detainees after their first night in custody reported that they had been brutally beaten.

March 13 - The detainees appeared before a court,many of them showing visible signs of abuse.They were released into their lawyers' custody as police had not formulated charges -this was done later in the week. Morgan Tsvangirai,leader of the Movement for Democratic Change,MDC,spent time in intensive care with a head injury.

March 15 - Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete held emergency talks with the Zimbabwean leader in Harare. After the meeting,a defiant Mugabe told western critics they could "go hang".In a subsequent TV interview,he promised police would continue to "bash"opponents.

March 16 - Tsvangirai was released from hospital and went home,still in poor physical shape.

March 18 - MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa was beaten by an unknown groups of assailants at Harare airport, preventing him from leaving the country.Other opposition members had also been prevented from travelling, including Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland,who were injured in the March 11 police action and were seeking medical treatment abroad.The US State Department has said it holds President Mugabe "personally responsible"for attacks on opposition leaders.

A legacy of international inaction encourages Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe to believe there is no price to pay for his crackdown on opponents

By Benedict Unendoro in Harare

The universal condemnation of the police assault on Zimbabwean opposition leaders on March 11 is unlikely to move President Robert Mugabe. Ordinary Zimbabwean interviewed by IWPR say their president has got away with this kind of thing for decades, and the international community has done little more than issue protests from a safe distance.

Fifty opposition leaders on their way to attend a prayer meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds in the working class suburb of Highfield, Harare, were arrested and then savagely assaulted in police cells on March 11.

The images of a badly beaten Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, that flashed round the globe this week may have jolted the international community from its slumber.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Tsvangirai was in intensive care after sustaining serious head injuries from a police beating. Other prominent opposition figures also suffered serious injuries.

Tsvangirai left hospital on March 16. He and others had been released into the custody of their lawyers three days earlier as police had not completed the paperwork relating to possible charges.

Yet the new international outcry seems unlikely to alarm President Mugabe, given that he has not been swayed by similar criticism of his past actions over the last 27 years.

"Mugabe's story since independence in 1980 is a bloody trail of mass murder and the torture of political opponents," said Thompson Zhou, a teacher in the farming town of Kadoma.

"With such a track-record, why would Mugabe lose sleep over the recent round of condemnation over the torture of Tsvangirai and company?"

In the Eighties, Mugabe began consolidating his position by sending North Korean-trained troops into Matabeleland and the Midlands to attack supporters of ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo.