Thursday, November 22, 2001

HARARE, Zimbabwe In its latest crackdown against the opposition, the Zimbabwean government will propose legislation for the hanging of those found guilty of trying to overthrow the government, media reports said yesterday.
Describing opposition work as “terrorist activities,” the government said the new bill would also prohibit courts from granting bail to suspects in politically motivated crimes, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.
The report of the new legislation followed a ruling Tuesday by the Supreme Court that dismissed subversion charges by the government against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The court ruled that a colonial-era law invoked to prosecute Mr. Tsvangirai on accusations he incited an overthrow of the government violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial.
Mr. Tsvangirai welcomed the decision but said he doubted future cases would be granted a fair hearing because President Robert Mugabe has recently stacked the Supreme Court with ruling party loyalists.
“I am pleased if our courts can maintain this integrity but I fear in any future constitutional case we will find it difficult,” he said.
Mr. Tsvangirai faced a five-year jail term if found guilty and conviction would have barred him from running against Mr. Mugabe in presidential elections scheduled for next year.
Mr. Mugabe faces a tight race against Mr. Tsvangirai, whose party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is running on a platform of accountable government and has widespread support in the cities.
Copies of the proposed legislation against sedition have not yet been made public, but opposition officials said it appeared to be part of a government plan to intimidate critics before elections.
The legislation would also prohibit courts from granting bail to suspects in purported politically motivated crimes ranging from murder to car theft, the report said.
Rural Zimbabwe has spiraled into chaos since March 2000, when ruling party militants began violently occupying white-owned farms, demanding they be handed over to landless blacks.
Opposition officials accuse Mr. Mugabe of using land seizures without compensation to the farmers, as a pre-election ploy to garner support and scare off opponents.
Also yesterday, opposition officials announced the death of MDC activist Kufa Rukara, 55. Mr. Rukara died Tuesday of injuries suffered in September after he was reportedly beaten by ruling party militants in the Gokwe district, some 200 miles west of Harare.
There has been no comment by police on his death.
Mr. Mugabe’s government has executed 66 persons since coming to power in 1980.

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