Itai Mushekwe/Loughty Dube
GOVERNMENT, in a clear sign of mounting insecurity, on Wednesday deported a delegation of the South African Youth Alliance members that was set to meet ruling party officials, opposition parties, religious groups and civic society in media
tion efforts to address the political and economic crisis in the country.
The delegation, led by Buti Manamela of the South African Communist party (SACP) and comprising key South African organisations that included the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), was booted out of the country soon after arrival at Harare International Airport.
Government said the delegation had violated immigration laws although there is growing suspicion it feared the delegation would show solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) mass protests which government feared could lead to a revolt by disgruntled Zimbabweans.
Lucien Sengmi, who was representing the South Africa-based Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF), which was part of the Youth Alliance, yesterday castigated government’s action. Sengmi, speaking from South Africa, told the Zimbabwe Independent that they had been branded “undesirable elements and enemies of the state”.
“We were barred from entering Zimbabwe because they (immigration officials) together with state security agents said we were undesirable elements and enemies of the state. They charged us with violating the Immigration Act.”
Sengmi said their sole reason for the visit was to encourage dialogue between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition MDC, while “sharing from our perspective the importance of dialogue and peace in the resolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis”.
He said the deportation of the Youth Alliance despite assurances from Zanu PF officials that their visit was approved confirmed the “militarisation of the state” and that “there’s no democracy in Zimbabwe as we were not given the opportunity to explain ourselves”. According to the Youth Alliance itinerary made available to this paper, the delegation was on a three-day visit that would see a series of meetings with government and civil society.
On Wednesday the youth delegation was scheduled to meet ZCTU officials, followed by another with the Zanu PF youth league. They were yesterday scheduled to hold meetings with government, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara of the splintered MDC, before attending a political science lecture at the University of Zimbabwe.
Today the delegation would have proceeded to pay a courtesy call on President Mugabe, meet National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) officials, the Christian Alliance and make a brief tour of the country before departing tomorrow.
* Meanwhile police on Wednesday carried out a blitz on ZCTU and civic leaders to quash the planned protests, arresting more than 130 people countrywide. Those arrested include ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe, its president Lovemore Matombo and executive members of the union’s regional offices. Police in Bulawayo on Wednesday released 55 people who had been arrested in connection with the demonstration.
Despite serious intimidation by state security agents and a heavy presence of armed riot policeman, a group of about 150 women defied the clampdown to stage a surprise demonstration in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
The demonstration by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) was in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions whose planned marches were foiled by state security arms.
The group sprung into action along Herbert Chitepo Ave. Police intercepted and broke up the brief demonstration outside Food-For-Less Wholesalers.
Three truck loads of riot police descended on them and dispersed the protest before other people could join in.
A Woza spokesperson, Magodonga Mahlangu, said her organisation took part in the short demonstration because the women agreed with the issues the labour movement was raising.
“We took part in the demonstrations because we agreed in principle with the issues ZCTU was bringing up but unfortunately we ended up being the main act when ZCTU was supposed to be the main act,” Mahlangu said.
She said six Woza members were arrested during the demonstrations but the majority of the women dispersed and mingled with the afternoon shoppers when police pounced on them.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed that several people had been arrested but did not give figures saying he needed to make a reconciliation of all national data coming to him.
“There were no incidents of serious violence recorded but we are still getting reports and we are compiling information from across the country,” Bvudzijena said.
ZCTU chairman for Bulawayo, Percy Mcijo, said the labour movement was re-strategising for the future.
“Some of our members were arrested and the police sealed off the whole city and prevented us from marching but as a labour movement we will sit down and re-strategise on the next move,” Mcijo said.
Police pounced on coordinators of the demonstration and arrested about 20 of the leaders, the majority of whom were nabbed by plainclothes policeman as they were mobilising workers and informing them of a change of venue for the meeting.