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Police brutally disrupted prayer meeting

Police on 11 March 2007 brutally suppressed a prayer rally organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign and arrested more than 100, including Movement for Democratic Change president Morgan Tsvangirai.

More than 1 000 police officers were deployed to Highfields and, in running battles with opposition youths, killed one MDC activist Gift Tandare.

Also arrested was the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC Arthur Mutambara and National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE195, POLICE BRUTALLY DISRUPT PRAYER RALLY AND ARREST

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE195

2007-03-12 15:39

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO2813

RR RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0195/01 0711539

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 121539Z MAR 07

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1222

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1504

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1362

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1508

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0184

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0770

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1134

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1563

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3963

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1331

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1987

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1725

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000195

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/12/2017

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: POLICE BRUTALLY DISRUPT PRAYER RALLY AND ARREST

KEY OPPOSITION LEADERS

 

REF: A. REF A: HARARE 130

 

B. REF B: 2005 HARARE 1056

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Security forces on March 11 brutally suppressed a

prayer rally planned by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign and

arrested more than 100, including MDC President Morgan

Tsvangirai and other key opposition leaders. Observers

 

SIPDIS

report that more than 1,000 police officers were deployed to

the Harare suburb of Highfields, and in running battles with

opposition youths, killed one MDC activist. Police have

refused lawyers access to those detained, many of whom have

reportedly been severely beaten, including Tsvangirai. Human

rights lawyers launched an urgent court application to gain

access to those detained at 14 police stations across Harare,

but a High Court judge has delayed the case. MDC and civil

society leaders are calling for continued marches and rallies

to maintain pressure on the regime. Local observers have

commented on the new tone of defiance and resistance as

Zimbabweans fight back against the regime. End Summary.

 

——————————————— –

Police Aggression Exposed in Highfield – Again

——————————————— –

 

2. (SBU) Only three weeks after police brutally cracked down

on a MDC rally in Highfield (ref A), police once again turned

the low-income suburb into a war zone to block a prayer rally

by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign ) an umbrella grouping of

civil society groups, lead by the Christian Alliance clergy

(ref B). Although prayer rallies are specifically exempted

by the GOZ-imposed ban on political rallies, observers report

that more than 1,000 officers were deployed with water

cannons, tear gas, and truncheons to block the rally. Riot

police descended on the Save Zimbabwe Campaign leaders as

they approached the fairgrounds and arrested them as well as

a number of activists.

 

3. (SBU) Those arrested included MDC faction leaders Morgan

Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, and National Constitutional

 

SIPDIS

Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku. Angered by the

heavy-handed dismissal of the rally, including the arrests,

opposition supporters in Highfield fought pitched battles

with police throughout the day. Embassy observers in

Highfields reported seeing many intersections littered with

stones and bricks that demonstrators had hurled at the riot

police. At least two trucks, one army and one police, were

stoned and overturned by the demonstrators. Police at one

shopping center shot and killed MDC activist Gift Tandare )

a father of three ) as he attempted to throw back a tear gas

canister fired by police. Numerous others sustained injuries

at the hands of the heavily-armed police.

 

————————————–

Leaders Assaulted, Denied Legal Access

————————————–

 

4. (SBU) The police have been guarded about the whereabouts

and conditions of those arrested. However, information

seeped out today about mistreatment in police custody.

According to anti-Senate MDC officials, Tsvangirai was beaten

unconscious and rushed to Parirenyatwa Hospital last night

for treatment. He had a swollen eye and deep gashes on his

 

HARARE 00000195 002 OF 003

 

 

head that required stitches. Other MDC leaders had suffered

head injuries, one of them apparently almost lost an ear from

the beatings. NCA leader Lovemore Madhuku was seen by

lawyers with a cast on his arm, which was reportedly broken,

and bandages around his head, after also being treated at

Parirenyatwa. The Ambassador and British Ambassador Pocock

accompanied a local lawyer who attempted unsuccessfully to

gain access to Tsvangirai last night to bring him food and

water. MDC officials reported today that the beatings

apparently ended following this show of international

interest.

 

5. (SBU) Arrestees, including Tsvangirai, Mutambara, and

Madhuku are being detained without access to their lawyers at

14 police stations across Harare. Police at Machipisa

station in Highfield assaulted Tsvingirai’s attorney when he

inquired if Tsvangirai was being detained there. Police

brandishing guns chased Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights

(ZHLR) lawyers out of Harare Central Police Station last

night as they attempted to locate arrestees. Today lawyers

visited several police stations to determine the whereabouts

and condition of those arrested, but the police have not

released information. Several prominent MDC leaders,

including Secretary General Tendai Biti, have still not been

located and it is feared that they have been taken to the

notorious Goromonzi police facility known as a center for

torturing the regime’s victims.

 

6. (SBU) ZHLR filed an urgent court application to secure

access to lawyers for those detained. High Court Justice

Chinembiri Bhunu, however, refused to hear the application

until March 13 and gave no explanation for his decision.

(Note. Under Zimbabwean law, arrestees must be brought to

court with 48 hours of arrest unless police seek an extension

of time. March 13 is when those arrested this past weekend

would normally be brought before a judge. End Note.)

 

——————————————

Next Steps, Calls To Maintain The Pressure

——————————————

 

7. (SBU) On March 12, at a briefing for diplomats, MDC

Vice-President Khupe claimed the government,s intent was to

close all democratic space and turn Zimbabwe into a police

state. Khupe, the highest-ranking MDC officials still at

liberty, vowed that the Highfield events were just the

beginning of the struggle. She said demonstrations would

continue, aimed at the capitulation of ZANU-PF. According to

Khupe, there were demonstrations today in Mutare and over 100

demonstrators were taken into custody. (Comment.

Information is still sketchy and we are attempting to learn

more about events in Mutrare.)

 

8. (C) At a separate press conference earlier on March 12,

the leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign not under arrest

condemned the police crackdown and called on the Home Affairs

Minister to release all of the political detainees. Many of

those present also demanded continued action against the

regime. Afterward, anti-Senate MDC advisor Jameson Timba

told poloff that the opposition intended to mobilize its

supporters around Tandare’s death. Noting that the MDC now

had another martyr, Timba said that the MDC planned to march

at Tandare’s funeral, which his family had been asked to

postpone until Tsvangirai was released from prison, so that

the opposition leader could attend.

 

——-

Comment

 

HARARE 00000195 003 OF 003

 

 

——-

 

9. (C) Highfield has enormous symbolism in Zimbabwean

politics. It was there in 1963 that ZANU-PF was formed and

it was to Highfield that Robert Mugabe returned from exile in

1980. In recent years it has become an MDC bastion. In

2002, Tsvangirai addressed a presidential campaign rally in

Highfield of more than 100,000 people. That a ZANU-PF

government would in its turn suppress the people of the

suburb and turn it into a war zone speaks volumes about the

extent to which Robert Mugabe and his regime have betrayed

the principles of liberation.

 

10. (C) The regime has lost the people of Highfield and with

them the people of Zimbabwe. Its actions are the desperate

attempts of a desperate regime to maintain its hold on power

through naked repression. However, as is so often the case

with this regime, it may prove its own worst enemy. The

GOZ,s heavy-handed tactics, resulting in death and serious

injuries, appear to be galvanizing the anger of the people

and the resolve of the opposition. Local observers have

commented on the new tone of open defiance and a willingness

to fight the police that is increasingly creeping into

demonstrations.

DELL

(25 VIEWS)

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