- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

JOHANNESBURG A Zimbabwean soldier who died while serving with British forces in Iraq has been vilified by the government of President Robert Mugabe, and his family has been harassed by the country's notorious secret police.
Pvt. Christopher Muzvuru, 21, was killed April 6 when his unit overran the town of Basra. But in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, the state media have called him a mercenary and a sellout.
"For a Zimbabwean, whose country is virtually at war with Britain, to join the armed forces of an enemy is the highest level of selling out," was the comment from the Daily Mirror in Harare, a paper owned by a member of Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.
"He should be buried in Britain," the paper said.
The government-owned Herald newspaper likened Pvt. Muzvuru to the buffalo soldiers in Bob Marley's reggae song about former slaves who fought in the American Civil War.
Pvt. Muzvuru's parents have declined to comment, but a friend of the family told The Washington Times that they were living in terror in their hometown of Gweru, in central Zimbabwe.
"They have been visited by Mugabe's secret police and harassed by the government, and it is very painful for them," said the man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.
"They are in deep mourning for their son, and all the government can do is portray the young man as a traitor and his family as enemies of the state."
In London, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense confirmed that Pvt. Muzvuru joined the army in February 2001 and was one of about 200 Zimbabweans in the British forces.
He said other countries with significant numbers of nationals serving in the British army include Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Jamaica and South Africa.
For the past two years, the government of Mr. Mugabe, 79, has been at loggerheads with the United States, Britain, Canada and much of the Commonwealth because of attempts to suppress the opposition. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 70,000 people were beaten or abused by government agents in the past year.
More than 600,000 Zimbabweans live in exile in Britain, and an estimated 2 million have fled to neighboring South Africa.
Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled the country since 1980, was returned to power last year in an election marred by intimidation, and the results have not been recognized by Britain or the United States.
Zimbabwe's state-owned television did not show Iraqis celebrating the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein and described the U.S.- and British-led campaign as a "neocolonialist invasion against a sovereign state."
But a story in an opposition newspaper in the capital, Harare, accused the government of being too scared to screen pictures of a dictator being toppled and said the Zimbabwean people "will also be dancing in the streets" the day Mr. Mugabe leaves power.
For now, Zimbabweans are lining up in the streets to buy scarce supplies of fuel, flour, sugar, salt and the diet staple, cornmeal. A disastrous land-redistribution exercise has ended commercial production on most of the formerly white-owned farms.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) charges that instead of the land being handed over to black peasants, the best farms have been given to Mr. Mugabe's friends and family.
The farm seizures, combined with severe drought in parts of the country, have caused food shortages and a sharp rise in inflation, crippling the economy.
Yesterday, police in Harare raided the MDC headquarters and arrested 30 persons on the third day of a nationwide strike against fuel-price increases, Agence France-Presse reported.
Most shops in Harare's central business district remained closed, but some small businesses were open. Banks were closed, and hundreds of people lined up outside to withdraw money from automatic teller machines.
A military helicopter hovered overhead while riot police patrolled the streets.
Although the strike was called by the labor group Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the MDC has backed the action and promised more of its own.
Earlier this week, police arrested 45 MDC supporters mourning the death of a party activist who died after a suspected assault by police.

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