Tsvangirai Visits Political Prisoners

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday spent his first full day in office visiting political detainees he wants freed and meeting with labour officials who questioned his power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe.


The long-time opposition leader was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday by Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said in a speech after the inauguration ceremony that he wanted political prisoners freed immediately.

His spokesman, Joseph Mungwari, said no assurances of release were obtained during the visit to a maximum-security prison near the capital.

Mungwari said the prime minister spent 45 minutes with 16 prisoners linked to his MDC party. They have been accused since October of subversion and recruiting fighters to overthrow Mugabe. The MDC denied the charges, saying they were trumped up by Mugabe’s party.

“It is well known the prisoners are not well” in the harsh conditions of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Mungwari said.

Three other detainees, including Jestina Mukoko, a top human rights and peace activist held since December 3 last year, were taken from prison yesterday for medical examinations at a private clinic in Harare, their lawyers said.

Private doctors had said Mukoko, 72-year-old Fidelis Chiramba, and Ghandi Mudzingwa, a personal aide of Tsvangirai, needed care urgently after weeks in prison.

Irene Petras, head of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, whose members have represented at least 40 political prisoners arrested in recent months, said the three needed urgent hospitalisation.

A government doctor was sent yesterday to corroborate the diagnoses of private doctors. His findings were expected to be submitted to a court today in a hearing to demand they be taken to receive better care.

Prison authorities have already ignored several court rulings ordering that all the detainees receive adequate medical care.

Also yesterday, Tsvangirai, a former labour leader, met with officials of the main labour federation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The labour coalition had joined several independent Zimbabwean groups in calling for fresh elections, not power-sharing. — AP