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Police Arrest Zimbabwe Energy Minister Again, Restrict Political Activity

  • Peta Thornycroft

Elton Mangoma, centre, Zimbabwe's Minster of Energy and Power Development outside the magistrates courts, accompanied by two unidentified police detectives in Harare, March, 11, 2011

Elton Mangoma, centre, Zimbabwe's Minster of Energy and Power Development outside the magistrates courts, accompanied by two unidentified police detectives in Harare, March, 11, 2011

ZANU-PF aligned Zimbabwe police officers have arrested the country's energy minister, and all but banned political activities such as rallies by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), while allowing those organized by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. The energy minister, who is a prominent member of the MDC, has been arrested twice this month on corruption charges that his lawyers reject.

Police in Zimbabwe have again arrested the country's energy minister Elton Mangoma, this time as he traveled to work in Harare. He was released on bail last week on charges relating to a fuel deal he concluded when Zimbabwe's supplies ran short. He said after his release he had informed Mugabe about the deal. He was eventually released on bail.

Now he has been arrested again, allegedly in connection with a deal to buy electrical equipment for the country.

His lawyer Selby Hwacha confirmed the arrest Friday and said Mangoma was in police cells in central Harare and he denys the charges against his client.

Several human rights organizations say that the Zimbabwe Republic Police selectively arrest suspects, mainly supporters of Tsvangirai's MDC, and do insufficient investigations before arresting suspects.

Eric Matinenga, a lawyer and MDC minister for parliamentary and constitutional affairs said there is a record of what he called "malicious" arrests in Zimbabwe.

"This archaic business of you smell a rat, you arrest. You throw [that idea] away. You don't arrest and investigate. Where it is possible to bring that person to court at a convenient date that should be done. We know how people are so fond of wanting to parade these so called important people in town in police jeeps and trucks," said Matinenga.

The home affairs ministry is controlled jointly by the MDC and ZANU-PF. MDC co-home affairs minister Theresa Makone says the police do not obey her orders.

Zimbabwe's present constitution says that the police commissioner, Augustine Chihuri is appointed by Mugabe.

There was no one available for comment at Zimbabwe police headquarters in Harare Friday.

Zimbabwe's police have also effectively ended all public activity for the Movement for Democratic Change party.

President Mugabe's ZANU-PF supporters are regularly holding rallies and political events in a campaign to collect signatures for a petition protesting continued European Union and United States financial and travel sanctions against 163 mainly ZANU-PF leaders and a number of businesses including a few state companies.

A week ago, the MDC was told first by police and then by the Harare High Court it could not hold a rally on an open field near the center of Harare because ZANU-PF was holding a rally nearby.

MDC lawyers went to the High Court asking for a ruling to allow the rally but Judge George Chiweshe refused permission.

Judge Chiweshe was former chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Commission which many analysts criticized as being partisan towards ZANU-PF during the last elections in 2008.

Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda told VOA that ZANU-PF had not applied to the City of Harare to hold the rally which police claimed would clash with the MDC event.

By the end of the day there had been no ZANU-PF rally, but scores of policemen and militant ZANU-PF members gathered where the MDC hoped to hold its peace rally.

There were several scuffles and a few people, mostly members of the public walking through the field to catch buses claimed they had been attacked by ZANU-PF supporters.

Zimbabwe's laws demand that political parties inform police when they wish to hold a rally, but they do not need police permission to hold rallies.

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