- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s opposition leader was released on bail yesterday after two weeks in jail on treason charges, but he was ordered by the court not to call for the overthrow of authoritarian President Robert Mugabe.

Accompanied by his wife and a small throng of supporters, Morgan Tsvangirai left a Harare jail after delivering four cardboard boxes stuffed with 10 million Zimbabwean dollars — about $12,000 — in bail.

Under the conditions of his release, Mr. Tsvangirai is barred from advocating Mr. Mugabe’s removal by what Judge Susan Mavangira termed “violent or other unlawful means.”

Mr. Tsvangirai, the head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was arrested June 6 on treason charges after a week of anti-government strikes that shut down much of the already-fragile economy.

Opposition officials said Mr. Tsvangirai was held in a filthy, overcrowded cell. They vowed to continue their struggle.

“His incarceration has only served to strengthen the people’s resolve to intensify peaceful efforts to tackle the crisis of legitimacy in Zimbabwe,” opposition spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said.

Mr. Mugabe responded to the protest by sending out security forces to crush street demonstrations. State prosecutors said Mr. Tsvangirai had called on supporters to oust Mr. Mugabe and incited them to violence.

The opposition leader denied the charges, saying he called for peaceful protests to get Mr. Mugabe, 79, to the negotiating table to discuss the nation’s worsening political and economic crisis and his potential retirement after 23 years in power.

Mr. Tsvangirai and two senior opposition officials are already on trial on treason charges, which carries a potential death penalty, on charges of plotting to assassinate Mr. Mugabe two years ago.

The three politicians say they were framed by the government to weaken their party. Mr. Tsvangirai ran against Mr. Mugabe in last year’s elections, which independent observers and a number of foreign government said were marred by state-orchestrated political violence, intimidation and vote-rigging.

The opposition blames Mr. Mugabe for crippling the economy and creating acute shortages of fuel, food, medicine and essential imports. Mass famine was avoided this year only by foreign humanitarian aid.

Zimbabwe’s economy currently is in its worst crisis since independence in 1980 with 269 percent inflation, widespread unemployment and the near-collapse of commercial agriculture since Mr. Mugabe started redistributing 5,000 white-owned farms to black Zimbabweans.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a group of 350 civil organizations, said in a report Thursday the opposition’s objectives in calling the protests earlier this month were not clear and that publicity for it was confusing.

Some of the publicity called for “a final push” to remove Mr. Mugabe. Other fliers said the protests were to bring him to the negotiating table.

The coalition said the opposition “dangerously oversimplified” the protests, leaving many of its supporters with the naive expectation the entrenched government would lay down its arms in a single week of protests.

The opposition has promised more protests.

The coalition said more coordination and better planning was needed in future protests for democratic reform.

It said at least 600 people — including five opposition lawmakers and scores of district party officials — were arrested in the recent crackdown.

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