PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has failed the test to guarantee violence-free elections and raised doubts about his sincerity in the Southern African Developme
nt Community (Sadc)-initiated talks to end the Zimbabwean crisis.
Opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mugabe failed to embrace the spirit of the Sadc initiative to help make a truce between the MDC and the ruling Zanu PF when he unleashed police to disrupt the MDC’s “Freedom March” on Wednesday.
“The march was a test of sincerity on the part of Mugabe on whether he is prepared for a paradigm shift and accept any change in this country,” Tsvangirai told his supporters at Glamis arena. “Mugabe has failed that test in the same way which has become a characteristic of Zanu-PF — responding to people’s expression through violence, greed, fraud and corruption.”
Tsvangirai briefed diplomats on the march, talks and elections in Harare yesterday. South African talks facilitator Sydney Mufamadi arrived in Harare on Wednesday in a bid to finalise talks just as Tsvangirai was being arrested.
Following Harare magistrate C!aroline Chigumba’s ruling upholding a police ban on the march but allowing the MDC to hold !a rally, thousands of opposition supporters on Wednesday emerged from the party’s Harvest House headquarters and started marching towards the stadium waving placards and chanting songs.
Riot police blocked their path resulting in skirmishes in the city centre as police fired teargas to disperse the demonstrators.
In the skirmishes, police arrested 15 people including MDC national organising secretary Elias Mudzuri and two of his bodyguards. They were released after paying a $40 000 fine each for alleged criminal nuisance.
Earlier in the day police had arrested and later released Tsvangirai in a pre-dawn raid at his residence.
Armed detectives from the Law and Order section swooped on the MDC leader at 4:30am and took him to Harare Central police station where he was questioned on what officials said were allegations of organising an illegal march.
Tsvangirai was taken into custody with his party’s elections co-ordinator, Dennis Murira — just hours before planned street protests which police had banned on Monday.
The MDC had informed the police on January 8 that it would hold a march in central Harare to protest against a deepening economic crisis and the refusal by Zanu PF to effect a transitional constitution that will define terms and conditions of the forthcoming joint presidential and parliamentary elections.
In a dramatic u-turn, police prohibited the MDC from holding the march arguing that it had gathered intelligence suggesting the party was bent on causing mayhem.