Security forces in Zimbabwe claim to have foiled Egyptian-style uprisings after arresting 46 rights activists in the capital Harare for allegedly “plotting to oust a constitutionally-elected government”.
The Saturday arrest came a few hours before President Mugabe (87) returned from a week long medical trip to Singapore.
Police said they seized a video projector, a laptop and two DVDs which
was used to beam videos from the Tunisian and Egyptian protests which
led to the ouster of those countries’ leaders.
“On February 19 it is said Munyaradzi Gwisai (former legislator) invited people from ZCTU, students from Zinasu, Medical Professionals and Allied Workers’ Union and International Socialist Organisation to attend a meeting with a theme — ISO calls on workers, students and the working people to support the struggle in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers,” said James Sabau, Police spokesman for Harare.
According to him, “the agenda of the meeting was the revolt in Egypt and Tunisia — what lessons can be learnt for the working class in Zimbabwe and Africa”.
Police said videos of the uprising in Egypt and revolts in Tunisia were being shown to the guests who attended as a way to motivate the people to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.
“The video showed the uprising and demonstrations and subsequent removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia,” police said in a statement Monday.
Eye witnesses claim that riot police stormed the venue and arrested
everyone present. The arrested activists were drawn from several trade unions- Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the Medical Professions Allied Workers Union.
However, by midday Monday, the 46 were still to be formally charged but the state can detain them for 48 hours without laying charges.
Mr Mugabe, in power for 31 years, agreed to share power with opposition rivals following disputed elections in 2008, but critics and his coalition partners say human rights abuses against his opponents continue, helped by his Zanu PF party’s stranglehold on the security services.
Premier Morgan Tsvangirai in January voiced his support for the Egyptian protests, but analysts say similar uprisings are unlikely in Zimbabwe owing to the perceived passivity of the local population and the likelihood of a violent crackdown by Mugabe’s shock troops.