South African RIghts Group Accuses Tsvangirai of "Genocide"

A protester with a placard urging Tsvangirai to "stop the genocide in your jails" is seen here at Shell House, the ANC Headquarters during the Zimbabwean Prime Minister's meeting with the South African president earlier today

Harare, Zimbabwe, 03 August 2009

A South African human rights group staged a protest during the meeting between Morgan Tsvangirai and Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg today.

The South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) held up a banner with the message: Prime Minister Tsvangirai, Stop The Genocide In Your Jails.

Yes, they are his jails now.

It is a curious state of affairs and Tsvangirai will obviously protest about the labeling, but this is a bed he made and must sleep in.

By agreeing to go into government, by telling supporters at rallies that "there is nothing Mugabe does without my approval" after the formation of that Inclusive Government, he is essentially taking responsibility for the actions of the government.

There was an international outcry when video footage smuggled out of Zimbabwe's prisons a couple of months ago showed skeletal prisoners suffering malnutrition and disease.

Roy Bennett, the MDC-Tsvangirai's designated Deputy Minister Of Agriculture, who was arrested on the day he was supposed to be sworn in, shared a cell with a corpse, after a prisoner died and the authorities took their time to remove the remains.

And on this one, Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, in charge of "policy formulation and implementation", can not blame "hardliners".

This is simply a case of the State adopting a dehumanising approach to prisoners and changing this policy is not a political act at all. The people who are suffering in the prisons are ordinary Zimbabweans, most certainly not high-ranking (or even low-ranking) members of the MDC-T.

SAPOHR rightly calls these Tsvangirai's Prisons. He is a part of the government now. He meets with Mugabe and has tea with him every Monday. He sits in Cabinet every Tuesday. Thokozani Khupe, his deputy, insists the PM is "on par" - equals - with Mugabe.

Still, even allowing for hardliners, there is no doubt that the issue of Zimbabwe's approach to prisoners' basic human rights is squarely one of the Inclusive Government turning a blind eye.

So, barely six months into his new job as Prime Minister, Tsvangirai is already being accused of abusing human rights. I wonder where he will be in a year's time.

And after the 5 years they are plotting with Mugabe to hang on to this Inclusive Government? Will we be able to distinguish between the two?


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