Mugabe Metes Out Harsh Retribution to Civil Society
Members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) marched through the streets of Bulawayo today to mark International Refugee Day, commemorated annually on 20th June. Four simultaneous protests began at 12.30pm under the theme – real people, real needs. The four different protests began at different locations, one of which was outside Bulawayo Central Police Station, converging on the offices of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper to test if media freedom exists in Zimbabwe today.
Three of the four simultaneous protests, including the one that had started outside the police station, arrived at the offices of the Chronicle at which point they were attacked by uniformed police officers who brutally beat them, arresting many. The fourth demonstration was stopped en route by police who also viciously beat the peaceful protestors. At this point, we are still trying to verify how many people have been arrested and how many require medical treatment.
WOZA traditionally marks International Refugee Day as we believe Zimbabweans are refugees in their own country – displaced, unsettled and insecure. Government is still targeting informal trading, the only means of survival for most people and so many find themselves unable to provide for themselves and their families. Informal traders are harassed by police, their produce often looted and stolen. In a country where all goods and services are now charged in foreign currency, the inability to earn forex places the vulnerable even more at risk and forces more and more Zimbabweans to flee their country of birth to try and provide for their families. Through these peaceful protests, WOZA is reminding the inclusive government and the world that the people of Zimbabwean remain the victims of this crisis – it is time to put the needs of the people first. ALL Zimbabweans deserve to enjoy the full rights of citizenship; amongst others, the right to earn a living, the right to personal security and the right to adequate shelter. (Source)
WOZA is paying the price for Mugabe's anger at civil society leaders who are in Europe at the same time as the Prime Minister. These civil society leaders have been calling on European countries to withhold aid until certain reforms are implemented.
They are concerned with freedom of speech, assembly, human rights abuses and lack of media freedom in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe sad yesterday the NGOs just want to ensure government does not get any aid so that they themselves can continue to receive grants from the West.
It is typically cynical of the old man: he has always believed that every man has a price, which is why he lets those close to him loot and steal, as long as they remain loyal.
This also exposes the lie behind the Prime Minister's insistence that everything is fine and the country is making progress under the MDC-PF government. The lack of respect for the rights its own people is the reason why the world is refusing to engage this regime.
But the regime's biggest apologist, the Prime Minister, still insists that this must be tolerated and he must be given money to develop the country.
I dare say in the next few weeks, Mugabe will go for broke. Crackdown on dissent will be much more naked. And it is also almost certain now that the sham trials of MDC-T activists and members will be pursued with even more vigour.
All this because, as far as Mugabe is concerned now, he has nothing to lose.
Except the loosening of his grip on power.