AGAINST a backdrop of deepening economic and humanitarian crises caused by its irresponsible policies, the Zimbabwe government has intensified its crackdown on democracy and human rights.
On March 11, police attacked a peaceful p
rayer gathering of political opponents and civil society leaders, killing one opposition member and arresting 50 others, a number of whom were severely beaten while in custody.
Leaders from Africa, Europe, and North America condemned the brutal actions of the Zimbabwean government. Eight months later, the campaign of repression continues, even as regional leaders work to establish dialogue between the regime and the opposition.
Government forces continue to employ arbitrary arrest, abduction, torture and other abuse, including beatings with whips and cables, suspension, and electric shock to repress civil and political freedoms on a massive scale. 2007 has been the worst year yet for Zimbabwe’s human rights defenders. The suffering of all Zimbabweans grows more acute by the day.
Feb 6 — 78 students arrested for peacefully demonstrating against tuition increases, 13 injured.
Feb 13 — 174 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA), a peaceful women’s non-governmental organisation (NGO), arrested, some carrying infants, and some brutally beaten by police.
March 8 — 37 members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an NGO calling for peaceful democratic reform, arrested for demonstrating.
March 11 — More than 1 000 security forces in Harare violently disrupt a prayer rally organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition of church and civil society organisations and political opposition groups. More than 50 attendees arrested. During ongoing clashes with unarmed opposition supporters throughout the day, police shot and killed opposition member Gift Tandare. Police severely beat many of the detainees for prolonged periods while in custody, including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and denied them access to legal counsel and medical attention for several days. All were released on March 13. At a rally of supporters, Mugabe said of Tsvangirai’s beating: “Of course he was bashed. He deserved it…I told police to beat him a lot. He and his MDC must stop their terrorist activities. We are saying to him, ‘Stop it now or you will regret it.”
March 12 — Two opposition supporters wounded when police fired into a crowd of mourners who were attending the funeral service of opposition activist Gift Tandare.
March 18 — Opposition leader and MP Nelson Chamisa beaten with iron bars by unidentified assailants, believed by eye-witnesses to be state agents, at the airport as he attempted to travel abroad. Chamisa sustained serious head injuries, and was prevented from traveling.
March 27 — Suspected state security agents abducted opposition leader Last Maengahama from a shopping centre and beat him with iron bars as they questioned him about the opposition’s plans, abandoning him more than 80 kilometres away with a broken leg, lacerations, and severe bruising.
March 28 — A journalist and more than 30 opposition supporters, including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, arrested at opposition party offices; many were severely assaulted while in police custody.
April 19 — Police arrested 82 members of the NGO WOZA for peacefully protesting frequent power outages and poor service from the state electric authority. Police arrested two other members when they attempted to bring food to those in custody.
May 8 — Police beat more than 50 lawyers gathered outside the High Court to protest the unlawful arrest of two prominent human rights attorneys.
May 26 — 200 opposition youths beaten and arrested during a meeting at their headquarters.
June 6 — Police used batons to disperse a peaceful demonstration held by the NGO WOZA. Seven members arrested; two were badly beaten during arrest. At least 20 sought medical attention for injuries.
June 11 — More than 100 members of the NGO WOZA arrested during a peaceful protest march against the economic crisis.
June 15 — 50 activists reported missing after being taken from demonstration sites, homes and shopping centres. Half had been abducted and abandoned hundreds of kilometres away and 25 were detained for several days. Many were assaulted.
July 7-9 — Police used tear gas and dogs to break up a meeting of University of Zimbabwe students protesting over fees. Six students arrested and over 20 injured. University authorities then expelled all students from their halls of residence. Several students were injured and lost their possessions; others had to sleep outside. The university defied a court order mandating that all 4 500 students be permitted back into their dormitories.
July 25 — Police detained more than 240 members of the NGO NCA after a demonstration calling for a new constitution. More than 100 officers and others, suspected by eye-witnesses to be youth militia, took turns beating the group, including elderly women and women with young children, for hours. More than 170 required medical attention for injuries, including broken bones and head wounds. Bronislawa Kwinjo, a 64-year-old grandmother, died from her injuries on September 7.
August 21-22 — Betty Makoni of the NGO Girl Child Network and two American documentary film-makers arrested and held for nine hours. Makoni was accused of smuggling in foreign journalists without state accreditation and interrogated for 13 hours before being released. The Americans were released the following day.
Sept 10 — Intelligence agents arrested Revd Sonykis Chimbuya, the chairman of the Pastors’ Forum, accusing him of having held an anti-government meeting. At least 20 pastors from Pentecostal churches attended the meeting to discuss problems affecting disadvantaged communities in Zimbabwe.
Sept 27 — Members of the government youth militia disrupted a public meeting organised by the local NGO Zimbabwe Youth Forum, despite police clearance for the meeting to take place. Eleven arrested, including students.
October 1 — 158 members of the NGO WOZA, including two mothers carrying babies, arrested while taking part in a solidarity march.
October 30 — More than 500 students protested the declining state of education in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe National Students’ Union reported that riot police forcibly dispersed the marchers before they could deliver a petition to the higher and tertiary education minister.
November 6 — More than 250 members of the NGO WOZA held a peaceful demonstration outside parliament to protest the continued harassment of human rights activists by police. A riot squad dispersed the crowd, beating a number of women with batons. 98 WOZA members were arrested and held for seven hours before being released.
November 22 — During South African President Thabo Mbeki’s visit to Zimbabwe, following a peaceful NCA demonstration, 22 NCA members were beaten by thugs linked to the Mugabe regime, according to eyewitnesses.