- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe Police cracked down yesterday on planned demonstrations against the disputed presidential elections, arresting at least 22 people in the capital and blockading strategic locations in towns across Zimbabwe.
The arrested demonstrators include Lovemore Madhuku, who heads the umbrella organization of civic groups organizing the protest against President Robert Mugabe's re-election.
Mr. Madhuku, speaking from the Harare police station on his mobile phone, said detainees expect to be charged with defying security laws that ban political gatherings of more than three persons unless authorized by police. Police officials were not available to comment on the arrests.
Small groups of demonstrators some waving banners demanding democratic reform were prevented from reaching the site of a planned march through downtown Harare. Police closed off downtown with roadblocks, and riot police were posted in many areas.
Police blockades also prevented gatherings in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, and the provincial towns of Mutare and Gweru, said Douglas Mwonzura, spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly, an alliance of civic groups that called for nationwide protests yesterday.
Television journalist Edwina Spicer and her husband were arrested and briefly detained yesterday, apparently after filming truckloads of police deploying in Harare. Also, 354 activists arrested Thursday were freed on bail yesterday.
Critics of Mr. Mugabe said the actions yesterday to quash demonstrations were the latest examples of his efforts to turn Zimbabwe into a police state.
Thousands of government critics and opposition activists have been arrested since the March election, in which the government said Mr. Mugabe defeated opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai for the presidency of this southern African nation.
The movement says the election was tainted by political violence and vote rigging. It also called for a revote.
Several independent observer groups said the elections were deeply flawed and clearly engineered toward ensuring a Mugabe victory. The United States condemned the vote, and the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies suspended Zimbabwe for a year.

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