- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 7, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe | The Zimbabwean opposition said Friday that its rallies had been banned indefinitely three weeks before the presidential runoff, while the U.S. ambassador accused President Robert Mugabe’s regime of using food as a weapon to stay in power.

U.S. Ambassador James McGee said the regime is distributing food mostly to its supporters.

If the situation continues, “massive, massive starvation” will result, Mr. McGee told reporters in Washington by video conference from Harare.

Millions of Zimbabweans depend on international groups for food and other aid as the country’s economy crumbles. The world’s highest inflation rate has put staples out of reach in what was once the region’s breadbasket.

Aid groups in Zimbabwe were ordered Thursday to halt their operations, leaving impoverished Zimbabweans dependent on the government and Mr. Mugabe’s party.

On Friday, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change said that police had banned the opposition party’s rallies out of concern for the safety of Mr. Tsvangirai and other party leaders. The open-ended ban only affects the opposition.

Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe called the justification “nonsense,” and said the ban was “a clear indication that the regime will do everything necessary to remain in power.”

Mr. Tsvangirai beat Mr. Mugabe in the March 29 first round, but did not garner the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to avoid a runoff, which is scheduled for June 27.

Opposition and human rights groups accuse Mr. Mugabe of orchestrating violence to ensure he wins re-election amid growing unpopularity for his heavy-handed rule and the country’s economic collapse.

Mr. Tsvangirai had been trying to campaign Friday around Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. He was stopped at two roadblocks, and the second time was ordered to a police station about 30 miles from Bulawayo.

Mr. Tsvangirai was questioned by police for 25 minutes at the station, and was told that all party rallies in the country had been banned indefinitely, Mr. Sibotshiwe said. Mr. Tsvangirai and reporters with him were allowed to leave about two hours later.

On Wednesday, Mr. Tsvangirai said he was detained for nine hours at another police station near Bulawayo.

Mr. McGee expressed concern Friday for Mr. Tsvangirai, who has survived at least three assassination attempts.

“Do I fear for Morgan Tsvangirai’s life? Given the excesses of the government here, we are not sure what they will do,” Mr. McGee said.

On Thursday, a mob of Zimbabwe “war veterans,” a group of often-violent Mugabe loyalists, waylaid a convoy of American and British diplomats investigating political violence, beating a local staffer, slashing tires and threatening to burn the envoys, the U.S. Embassy said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide