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Police crackdown on opposition rallies

Police violently broke up rallies of the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change in Harare and Bulawayo in defiance of a High Court order.

In Harare police used water cannons, teargas and buttons to stop an MDC-Tsvangirai rally of more than 20 000 aimed at launching the party’s 2008 election campaign.

More than 60 MDC leaders and supporters were arrested.

In Bulawayo police used batons to break up a Mutambara faction rally attended by about 2 000 supporters to launch its “Defiance Campaign” against the government.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE130, POLICE ZEALOUSLY CRACK DOWN ON OPPOSITION RALLIES

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE130

2007-02-20 15:25

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000130

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

USAID FOR M. COPSON AND E. LOKEN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2017

TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL ZI ASEC

SUBJECT: POLICE ZEALOUSLY CRACK DOWN ON OPPOSITION RALLIES

 

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1

.5 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Police and ZANU-PF youth paramilitaries in Harare and

Bulawayo violently broke up rallies over the weekend by the

two opposition MDC factions. On February 18 in Harare, riot

police acting in defiance of a High Court order used water

cannons, teargas and batons to prevent an anti-Senate MDC

political rally of over 20,000 people, aimed at launching the

MDC,s 2008 presidential campaign. More than 20 individuals

were seriously injured and more than 60 MDC supporters and

leaders were arrested. The government-controlled press

blamed the MDC for instigating the violence. On February 17

in Bulawayo, police used batons to breakup a pro-Senate MDC

march attended by an estimated 2,000 supporters to launch its

“Defiance Campaign” against the government. We recommend the

Department issue a statement condemning the GOZ’s actions

(see proposed text in paragraph 12). End Summary.

 

——————————————–

Police Violently Quash Anti-Senate MDC Rally

——————————————–

 

2. (U) Approximately 1,000 riot police in Harare used water

cannons, teargas and batons to prevent an estimated crowd of

20,000 from attending an anti-Senate rally on February 18 at

a stadium in the densely-populated Harare suburb of

Highfields. Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the MDC

anti-Senate faction, had planned to announce his candidacy

for president at the event but police physically denied his

entry at the stadium gates.

 

3. (C) Dr. Francis Lovemore, director of the Counseling

Services Unit, a local NGO that provides medical services to

victims of government abuse, told us that more than 20

individuals were seriously injured when police broke-up the

crowd at the rally. In addition, police arrested more than 60

MDC supporters at the stadium who were preparing for the

rally. These individuals have yet to be released.

 

————————

High Court Order Ignored

————————

 

4. (U) The GOZ crackdown occurred despite a High Court order

that specifically enjoined the police from interfering with

the rally. On February 16, Harare police cited the Public

Order and Security Act (POSA) to deny permission for

Tsvangirai’s campaign kick-off, claiming that police did not

 

SIPDIS

have sufficient manpower to control the event, and that MDC

events historically had been “violent.” Zimbabwe Lawyers for

Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyers successfully challenged this

denial in the High Court on February 17.

 

5. (U) However, immediately after the High Court ruling,

police began to preemptively arrest senior leaders of the

anti-Senate MDC, including, on the steps of the courthouse,

secretary-general and MP Tendai Biti, and, at his home, MP

 

SIPDIS

Paul Madzore. (Note: Both were still in detention as of

today. End Note.) On the morning of February 18, when it

became clear that police would not allow the rally to go

forward, MDC officials delivered a copy of the High Court

 

HARARE 00000130 002 OF 003

 

 

order permitting the rally to the commanding police officer

for Harare, Thomsen Jangara. Jangara responded that he had

orders from &higher-ups8 to prohibit the event despite the

court order.

 

—————————————-

GOZ Paints MDC as Instigator of Violence

—————————————-

 

6. (C) According to Embassy contacts, many of the riot police

at the Harare rally were actually paid members of ZANU-PF

youth brigades. Their mission was to violently attack MDC

members in order to provoke a reaction that would support the

government’s characterization of the MDC as violent. (Note:

Post has heard from several sources that these youth are paid

the equivalent of several hundred U.S. dollars per month,

several times what ordinary police receive. End Note.)

 

7. (SBU) The government-controlled press dutifully ignored

the brutality of the state’s security apparatus and instead

reported that the MDC was responsible for the violence in

lurid headlines in their Monday and Tuesday editions. The

GOZ-controlled Herald’s edition on February 19 carried the

headline “MDC unleashes violence” along with a prominent

picture of supposed MDC supporters throwing stones at police

and passer-bys.

 

8. (C) According to eye-witness reports, including that of an

Embassy local employee, the violence was initiated by the

riot police and in response some MDC youth began throwing

stones at the police. State media accounts have highlighted

injuries to four police officers who were reportedly attacked

by “rowdy MDC supporters.”

 

—————————————

Pro-Senate MDC Rally Meets Similar Fate

—————————————

 

9. (C) Police in Bulawayo violently broke up a pro-Senate MDC

rally on February 17, attended by about 2,000, to launch its

“Defiance Campaign” plan of action. Police descended on the

pro-Senate MDC supporters as they walked a few blocks from

City Hall to the pro-Senate faction’s offices in Bulawayo.

 

10. (C) Pro-Senate MDC communications officer Maxwell Zimuto

told poloff that several MDC supporters had been beaten by

police, including one individual who was hospitalized.

Zimuto also said that ten MDC staffers had been arrested in

Bulawayo but were released on February 19 after they paid an

admission of guilt fine.

 

11. (C) Pro-Senate MDC MP Abendico Bhebhe told us on February

20 that police had initially given the party permission to

hold the rally, but rescinded this permission citing

potential violence. Bhebhe said that pro-Senate MDC

Secretary General Welshman Ncube had appealed the decision to

 

SIPDIS

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, who responded that all

political meetings had been banned.

 

———————

Recommended Statement

———————

 

12. (SBU) The Embassy recommends that the Department issue

the following statement at the appropriate level condemning

the actions of the GOZ:

 

HARARE 00000130 003 OF 003

 

 

 

&The United States strongly condemns the actions of the

Government of Zimbabwe in violently suppressing peaceful

opposition political activity this past weekend. In defiance

of a court order, riot police broke up a rally in the

capital, Harare, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

at which its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was to announce his

candidacy for the country’s 2008 presidential election.

Scores were injured and arrested for attempting to peacefully

assemble and exercise their political rights.

 

The police also violently suppressed a rally in Zimbabwe’s

second city, Bulawayo, by the MDC’s other faction over the

weekend, again injuring and arresting many MDC members. We

call on the Government of Zimbabwe to release those still

detained and to investigate the actions of the police.

Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crises cannot be

solved through continued government repression but instead

requires dialogue with the political opposition, with

Zimbabwe’s civil society, and above all with the people of

Zimbabwe who have made clear their desire for democratic

change.8

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

13. (C) The GOZ’s brutal response to the MDC rallies is yet

another sign that the regime is weakening in the face of the

country’s economic collapse and the widespread opposition to

President Mugabe’s bid to extend his term past 2008. The MDC

has been relatively quiet for the last year and a half, since

it fractured into two factions. However, the government

clearly believes the MDC still has the capacity to galvanize

growing popular unrest into active opposition and to that end

was willing to defy a court order and to once more use

violent means to prevent legitimate opposition activity.

SCHULTZ

(7 VIEWS)

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