Magazine article New African

Morgan Tsvangirai: "I Will Soldier on until Zimbabwe Is Free"

Magazine article New African

Morgan Tsvangirai: "I Will Soldier on until Zimbabwe Is Free"

Article excerpt

On 16 March, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of one of the two factions of the opposition MDC in Zimbabwe (the MDC split into two on 12 October 2005), published his account of what led to a brutal assault on him and other party officials by the Zimbabwean police on 11 March. His piece, written for the British daily, the Independent, is reproduced here in full.

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Seeing a police station, which must be a sanctuary for the protection of the rights of citizens, being converted into a hell-hole was heart-wrenching. Seeing police officers trash their constitutional duties in favour of brutalising innocent civilians trying to exercise their basic freedoms was equally devastating. Yes, they bru-talised my flesh. But they will never break my spirit. I will soldier on until Zimbabwe is free.

I had driven into the Highfield suburb of the capital, Harare, on Sunday [11 March 2007] for a prayer meeting organised by local churches. Although Robert Mugabe had banned all opposition political party meetings and rallies, I had never anticipated that he could go as far as ruthlessly crushing a peaceful prayer meeting. When I arrived in Highfield, en route to the venue called the Zimbabwe Grounds, I learnt that it had been completely sealed off to the public. Riot police were visible everywhere and blocking people from accessing the venue. Ironically, it is the Zimbabwe Grounds that Mugabe stood in 1980 to promise us unfettered freedoms before he assumed power.

Sensing danger and realising that the police officers had the upper hand as they, by far, outnumbered potential prayer participants, and knowing from experiences that they would butcher peaceful citizens if we tried to defy them, I decided to withdraw. So it's ludicrous for the Mugabe regime to claim, as they do, that I started violence. I don't believe in violence. It's common knowledge that I face accusations of being a weak opposition leader because I have on many occasions restrained my supporters from being violent. It is common knowledge that when Mugabe stole the 2002 presidential elections in broad daylight and was later condemned by all and sundry for that electoral theft, my supporters were more than ready to confront him in the streets and topple his regime. I restrained them because I don't believe in violence but peaceful protest. I left the venue and withdrew to my home in Strathaven, at least 20km from Highfield. Before I could settle there, I was informed that all the senior officials of my party and other civic leaders who had wanted to continue with the prayer meeting had been arrested and were now jailed at Machipisa Police Station in Highfield. I immediately drove back and, upon my arrival at Machipisa Police Station, all hell broke loose. I was pulled out of my car by heavily built men in police gear and they began smashing my head against the wall while pushing me inside the station.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

My driver and other aides were treated in the same way. In fact, my driver, Simbarashe Mujeyi, was forced to leave the car engine running. [He] was thrown into the area where my comrades and I were being savagely beaten. The orgy of heavy beatings continued once we were all inside the station. They were mostly targeting my head and my face. The assaults, punctuated with obscene verbal attacks on my person, my family, my party--the MDC--and my supporters, continued for a long time. It was all like a bad dream. I momentarily recalled the incident in 1999 when a group of Mr Mugabe's supporters stormed my office when I still led the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and heavily assaulted me before trying to throw me out of the window of my 10th floor office. …

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