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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Arrested Following Week of Protests - 2003-06-06

Zimbabwe's opposition leader was arrested Friday at his home and taken to Harare's central police station. A police spokesman says Movement for Democratic Change President Morgan Tsvangirai will be charged with treason. The arrest came at the end of a week of protests called by the opposition. But the MDC leader says there will be more demonstrations.

Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested shortly after telling journalists and diplomats that opposition protests would continue until the government came to the negotiating table. This is the second time he has been arrested this week.

The Zimbabwe government says the week-long protest and stay-away organized by the opposition has been a failure.

A veteran of the ruling ZANU-PF party, Nathan Shamuyarira, told state media Friday that the time had come for measures to be put in place to stop the Movement for Democratic Change from destroying the economy even further by calling for more demonstrations.

Though the ruling party admits the stay-away hurt the economy, both Mr. Shamuyarira and several cabinet ministers say the week-long protest was a failure.

But the ZANU-PF official, a close associate of President Robert Mugabe, said the time had come for a showdown with the MDC. He said it had been given enough of an opportunity to do what it wished in the name of democracy.

But opposition demonstrators were given little chance to do anything in Harare Friday.

Hundreds of ruling party supporters, wearing white T-shirts with "No Mass Action" printed on the front, roamed the center of the capital. Policemen and security agents patrolled other parts of the city.

Just before he was arrested Mr. Tsvangirai called the week of protests a success, he also says there would have been more demonstrations if the state security forces had not prevented them.

He said from now on his party would not announce protests or demonstrations in advance.

A usually pro-government weekly (newspaper) said the strike, which shut down nearly all industry and much commercial activity, had cost Zimbabwe $10 billion.

Brian Raftopoulos, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said both sides proved something this week. He said the MDC showed it could instantly shut down the economy whenever it wanted to, and Mr. Mugabe showed he still controlled the security forces.