There are signs that the government of Zimbabwe is expanding its crackdown on opposition politicians and activists. The latest wave of repression and harassment began March 11th after police broke up a peaceful prayer gathering that called attention to the deteriorating conditions inside Zimbabwe, including political corruption, acute food shortages, and over seventeen-hundred percent inflation – the highest in the world.
Dozens of activists, including Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai were arrested and severely beaten in police custody. Mr. Tsvangirai stated in an interview, "Instead of random beatings at police stations, [Mugabe] is now using hit squads, unidentified men, unidentified vehicles."
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, is also a case in point. On March 18th, at the airport on his way to a European Union meeting, Mr. Chamisa was badly beaten by eight men, believed to be Mugabe supporters, who jumped out of two unmarked cars. Fortunately, it now appears he will not lose an eye, as earlier feared.
The day before, Zimbabwean police stopped two Movement for Democratic Change leaders, Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh, from boarding a flight to South Africa for medical attention for the injuries they sustained from beatings while in police custody on March 11th. Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the pro-Senate faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, was also stopped from traveling to South Africa.
The civic group, Combined Harare Residents Association, has also reported recent assaults on political activists. One was shot and others were arrested.
Lovemore Madhuku of the non-governmental organization, the National Constitutional Assembly, said in an interview that violence in Zimbabwe is growing. "There is some systematic following of all key activists," he said, "and trying to intimidate them, either by making them run away from their homes or beating them up."
In a statement on March 13th, the United States called for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained by the government of Zimbabwe after its brutal attack on the prayer rally. The government of President Robert Mugabe is ruthless and repressive, said Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice, and creates only suffering for the people. The citizens of Zimbabwe should have the right to freely express their views without being subject to violence and intimidation.