Police in Zimbabwe Wednesday raided the headquarters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and arrested a dozen party leaders. Party officials said Tsvangirai was among those detained, but police denied the charge. The arrest of the opposition movement for democratic change (MDC) activists followed an organized news conference Wednesday by the MDC to protest what the opposition described as the recent increase in abduction and torture of party executives.
Tendai Biti is the general secretary of the MDC. He said the police thwarted the MDC’s scheduled news conference.
“We were supposed to have a press conference, and the press conference was going to deal with the continuing abductions of our members. And only yesterday afternoon, after the memorial service of the late Gift Tandare, the activist who was murdered by Mugabe on March 11, 2007, during the prayer meeting… they abducted a close friend of mine and a member of our national executive. He was left in only briefs, tortured and left for dead,” Biti said.
Biti reflected on Wednesday’s disappearance of some of the party executives.
“As I speak to you now, I can’t tell you where Honorable Poma Dzuri, our member of parliament for Glens View is. I can’t tell you where Emmanuel Tisuwere, our member of parliament for Budereero is. At first we thought that there were only 20 that were arrested, but now I found out that it was 65 people and most importantly, I don’t know where Morgan Tsvangirai is,” he noted.
Biti said the police did not give any reasons for the arrest.
“No they didn’t give any reason. They never give reasons; even when we were arrested and beaten up on the eleventh of March we were not given any reason, so the dictator will not give you any reason,” he pointed out.
Biti speculated on the reasons behind the police crackdown.
“I suspect there were three main reasons behind the arrests; first was to prevent our press conference. Secondly, I think they are desperate to de-legitimize us. So they have been running on this story about petrol bombs and so forth, so I think they wanted to plant some evidence connected to that. And thirdly, I think they wanted an excuse to take away our computers, which would destabilize us, which is in effect what they have done,” he pointed out.
Biti said the MDC is concerned with finding the whereabouts of what he called the abducted party executives.
“At the present moment we are just concerned with the whereabouts of Morgan Tsvangirai and the rest of the people they have arrested. We are trying desperately to get them out tonight,” he said.
Although there have been reports of the party’s leader being freed, Biti says he has yet to know where Tsvangirai is.
“I’ve spoken to a journalist who has actually said he has spoken to him. But the point I’m making is that I have been to Tsvangirai’s house and he was not there,” he said.
Biti explains what the MDC is going to do about its members who have been arrested.
“The immediate thing right now is to get those people out of prison, feed them, and give them access to lawyers. Then the second thing is to look for the people who have been abducted. We don’t know where they are. At least for those who were arrested by the police, we know they are in police custody. But we are concerned about those who have been abducted, like our Members of Parliament,” he said.