Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fury at Mugabe Approval of Police Beatings

"....Ordinary Zimbabweans are angry with President Robert Mugabe for what many are describing as unforgivable and irresponsible statements he has been making following the bone-breaking assault last month by his security forces on national trades union chief Wellington Chibebe and other top union leaders.

"Addressing a rented crowd bussed to Harare Airport, on his recent return from addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mugabe said he would continue to sanction the beating of labour leaders who disregard police orders.

"Rejecting widespread international condemnation of the assaults on the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU, leadership, Mugabe said his government has no apologies to make. "There are some [foreign countries and human rights groups] who think we are not independent, who think they can organise demonstrations and look for pot-bellied people like Chibebe to demonstrate.

"We cannot have a revolt to the system. Some are crying 'We were beaten up'. Yes, you were beaten up. When the police say move, move. If you don't move, you are inviting police to use force."........

.....Elsewhere, Joram Nyathi, editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, one of the few remaining non-government newspapers, wrote in his regular column, "Who will protect us from a vengeful police force so emboldened by a culture of impunity that they can break people's skulls in broad daylight without any fear of prosecution?....

..."Police brutality has become the norm, especially among ordinary civilians who take the beatings for granted," wrote Nyathi. "When a president extols the virtues of police savagery it fills me with a sense of dread. Zimbabweans must be afraid, very afraid indeed. Mugabe has just opened for us the gates of Hell."

One prominent critic, however, said the trade unionists' attempted protest had been "just plain dumb". Professor George Ayittey, writing in the Zimbabwe Independent, said, "ZCTU leaders don't seem to have learned anything at all from their own experience or that of other African countries. Just because protest marches worked against the white colonialists, who were 'frightened' by a huge mass of black people, does not mean they will work against black neo-colonialists."....

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