Officials of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party are turning up the heat on their perceived political opponents in Zimbabwe by using the police to pursue partisan political goals.
Members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party have been arrested on trumped-up charges frequently in recent months, only to be released when the courts found no grounds for their arrests. Unfortunately, such harassment has become the norm in Zimbabwean politics, but these arrests further undermine the rule of law in the troubled Southern African nation and add to the partisan wrangling that is destroying it.
The latest arrest came June 24 when Jameson Timba, a minister of State in Tsvangirai's office, was detained for allegedly undermining the authority of the president. Specifically, Timba was said to have called Mugabe a liar for mischaracterizing the outcome of the recent Southern African Development Community summit on conditions in his country. The nation's High Court ordered Timba's release, but he was briefly detained and issued a warning. That means the police could pursue the case at a later date.
The case mirrors that of Elton Mangoma, the energy and power development minister in Mr. Tsvangirai's cabinet. He was arrested on graft charges connected to the importing of fuel to Zimbabwe. Here too, the High Court dismissed the charges saying state prosecutors failed to present a case, but not before Mangoma was arrested and incarcerated.
As long as politicized arrests and harassment like this continue, there will not be a political environment that will permit free and fair elections. This is unfortunate, because the people of Zimbabwe deserve to have a government that will respect their will and protect their rights.
The United States again calls on all parties to work together to fulfill the promises they made in signing the 2008 Global Political Agreement and work to depoliticize the operations of the police and other state institutions.