Special Powers Invoked to Curb Political Activity

By Herbert, Ross | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 28, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Special Powers Invoked to Curb Political Activity


Herbert, Ross, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwean police invoked special powers yesterday under a colonial-era law to restrict political activity, campaign rallies and the movement of political party supporters.

Opposition leaders denounced the move as an attempt to help the party of President Robert Mugabe win parliamentary elections planned for later this year.

For weeks, a nationwide campaign of nighttime beatings of farm workers and attacks on opposition-party supporters by backers of the ruling ZANU-PF party have drawn no response from Zimbabwean police.

Victims claim police often stood by and watched the attacks without intervening.

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri invoked the colonial Law and Order Maintenance Act to restrict campaigning in an attempt to halt the violence.

He said he was invoking three sections of the act to restrict the movements of political parties and ban public gatherings that threaten law and order.

The move came as talks between Britain and Zimbabwe in London broke off with no agreement on British funding for land reform in the African nation.

Britain had earlier announced it was willing to pay an additional $57 million for the purchase of land from white farmers, whose lands have been overrun in a recent wave of killings.

But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, speaking yesterday at the end of eight hours of talks in London with Zimbabwean ministers, said there could be no resumption of talks until violence and invasions of white-owned farms ended.

There was no immediate comment from the Zimbabwean delegation.

The measure invoked by Zimbabwean police yesterday makes it illegal to ferry supporters to meetings, public gatherings or processions unless such events are being officiated by the presidents of political parties, Commissioner Chihuri said.

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