Political activist arrested for calling Mugabe `dead man walking’

A Zimbabwean activist, Mr Sten Zvorwadza, has been arrested after calling 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe “a dead man walking”.

Lawyers said on Wednesday that the arrest was the latest case of authorities cracking down on dissent.
Zvorwadza, the leader of a street vendor’s union, was charged with insulting or undermining the president in a press interview where he was also quoted as saying that Mugabe was “old” and “day-dreaming”.

Mr Zvorwadza is a prominent anti-Mugabe campaigner who has led several demonstrations calling on the veteran leader to step down.

Zimbabwe’s worsening economy has seen many people resorting to informal street vending due to massive unemployment.

Mr Zvorwadza is yet to appear in court, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) group said.

Authorities have often arrested critics of President Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980.

In March, two journalists were arrested over a report that the president, who travels abroad for regular medical treatment, was “in bad shape”.

A pastor was also detained after prophesying that President Mugabe would die on October 17 this year.

Last week police arrested a journalist who reported that President Mugabe’s wife Grace had donated second-hand underwear to supporters.

Despite his advanced age and weakening health, President Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has endorsed him as its candidate for the 2018 General Election.

The Africa Review

Mugabe at UN stands up to ‘Giant Gold Goliath’ Trump

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe did not mince words at the United Nations Thursday about Donald Trump, mocking the US president as the “Giant Gold Goliath.”

Addressing the UN General Assembly, where reproaches of other leaders are generally less personal in tone, the 93-year-old veteran leader took Trump to task both on policy and appearance.

“Some of us were,” Mugabe said, pausing for emphasis, “embarrassed, if not frightened, by what appeared to be the return of the biblical Giant Gold Goliath.”

“Are we having a return of Goliath to our midst, who threatens the extinction of other countries?” he asked, triggering applause in the hall as two junior US diplomats listened expressionless.

“And may I say to the United States president, Mr. Trump, please blow your trumpet — blow your trumpet in a musical way towards the values of unity, peace, cooperation, togetherness, dialogue, which we have always stood for and which are well-writ in our very sacred document, the Charter of the United Nations.”

Trump stunned longtime UN watchers on Tuesday by threatening from the podium to “totally destroy” North Korea, describing its leader Kim Jong-Un as “Rocket Man.”

Mugabe has tense relations with Western nations which have imposed sanctions to press for more democracy in Zimbabwe, where he has ruled for 37 years.

In his UN address, Mugabe voiced particular concern over Trump’s plan to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord on climate change.

Mugabe urged cooperation “in order to halt the inexorable march towards the destruction of that upon which our own existence depends.”

 

 

AFP

Zimbabwe declares holiday on Mugabe’s birthday

Zimbabwe has declared President Robert Mugabe´s birthday on February 21 a national holiday, a state daily reported Saturday, honouring the veteran politician in power since 1980 who opponents accuse of brutal repression and devastating the economy.

The declaration of the Robert Mugabe National Youth Day came after lobbying by the ruling ZANU-PF party’s youth league.

“In declaring this day, we would like to highlight to our youths the values and principles so brilliantly displayed by President R.G. Mugabe which have resulted in an exemplary life that our youths can emulate,” state-owned Herald newspaper quoted home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo as saying.

He said the cabinet made the decision after years of lobbying by the ruling party which also said it wants the country´s main airport named after Mugabe.

Last week the cash-strapped government announced plans to build a $1 billion Robert Mugabe university, joining several other facilities named after him including the government´s school of intelligence, a main street in the capital Harare and the highway to his rural home.

Mugabe, now 93 years old, first came to power after Zimbabwe´s independence from Britain. He says he plans to contest elections due next year despite his advanced age and concerns over his frail health.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been run down, with output halved since 2000, while many basic services have collapsed and government salaries use up more than 90 percent of all public revenue.

Opposition parties are in talks to try to unite and field one candidate to oppose Mugabe in the next presidential poll.

Past elections however have been tainted by violence and intimidation by ZANU-PF operatives.

Mugabe back home after medical review in Singapore

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe returned home Sunday from Singapore where he had flown earlier this week for a medical review, his spokesman said.

Mugabe returned “this morning”, spokesman George Charamba told AFP.

He had travelled to Singapore Wednesday, just days after he celebrated his 93rd birthday, for what his spokesman had described as a “scheduled medical review”.

“As for the review, well he resumes work tomorrow,” Charamba said.

The veteran leader who has been in power since 1980, appeared frail at his birthday party on February 25.

Two journalists were arrested Friday over a report that claimed Mugabe was “in bad shape”.

They were charged with undermining and insulting the office of the president, and released hours after their arrest. They have not yet been brought before a court.

Mugabe’s health has been subject of increased speculation in recent years, and he regularly flies to Singapore for medical attention.

Despite his advanced age, Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party last year endorsed him as its candidate for the 2018 general elections.

Mugabe, 93, flies to Singapore for ‘medical review’

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who celebrated his 93rd birthday last week, flew to Singapore on Wednesday for a “scheduled medical review”, his spokesman said.

Mugabe appeared frail at his birthday party on Saturday, when he stood for more than an hour to deliver his speech, but he paused for lengthy periods and mumbled at times.

“The president left this morning for Singapore for a scheduled medical review,” his press secretary George Charamba told the state-run Herald newspaper.

“We expect him back in the country early next week.”

Mugabe, the world’s oldest national leader, has held power since 1980 during a reign marked by repression of dissent, vote-rigging and a sharp economic decline for the country.

He recently spent several weeks in Asia on his annual vacation, returning in late January, though it has not been officially confirmed that he had medical treatment during the trip.

He has made regular trips to Singapore for medical check-ups, and his health is a frequent subject of speculation.

In 2011, WikiLeaks released a US diplomatic cable from 2008 saying that Mugabe was reported to have prostate cancer and had less than five years to live.

In 2016, the government had to deny that he had died abroad during his annual vacation.

The ruling ZANU-PF party has been riven by factionalism for years as Mugabe has declined to name a successor.

Senior Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is seen as a leading contender to be the next president, as is Mugabe’s 51-year-old wife, Grace.

Mugabe’s spokesman was not available to comment to AFP.

AFP

Mugabe talks of own death at 93rd birthday party

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday with a lavish party on Saturday, addressing his own mortality in a speech, but showing no signs of stepping down.

Wearing a black cowboy hat, Mugabe, who is increasingly frail, paused for lengthy periods and mumbled at times as he spoke for more than an hour.

“It’s not always easy to predict that, although you are alive this year, you will be alive next year,” he said.

“It does not matter how healthy you might feel. The decision that you continue to live and enjoy life is that of one personality we call the Almighty God.
“We should thank the Almighty God that I was able to live from 92 years last year to 93, but much more than that I was able to live from childhood to this day — that’s a long, long journey.”

The birthday party, held in a large marquee outside Zimbabwe’s second city Bulawayo, was attended by thousands of officials and ZANU-PF party supporters.

Mugabe has held power since 1980 during a reign marked by repression of dissent, vote-rigging and the country’s sharp economic decline.

Now the world’s oldest national leader, his actual birthday on Tuesday has been honoured in a week-long extravaganza with state media filled with tributes and praise.

Local criticism

Saturday’s party included a feast and several vast birthday cakes, angering some Zimbabweans as the country endures severe food shortages.

One of the cakes was shaped like Mugabe’s official Mercedes-Benz limousine.

Holding the event at a school in Matobo has also riled locals as it is close to where many victims of Mugabe’s crackdown on dissidents in the early 1980s are thought to be buried.

At least 20,000 people are believed to have been killed in the massacres by North Korean-trained Zimbabwean troops, according to rights groups.

“This should not be a place for celebration,” Mbuso Fuzwayo, spokesman for the Bulawayo-based campaign group Ibhetshu Likazulu, told AFP.

“The whole area is a crime scene where the bones of victims of the massacres are buried.”

The state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday published a 24-page supplement of gushing congratulatory messages from government departments and regime loyalists.
“It’s written on earth and in heaven that our leader is R.G. Mugabe,” ZANU-PF national youth leader Kudzai Chipanga told the president in his speech.

“We find it hard and impossible to talk about any other leader except yourself.”

ZANU-PF has endorsed Mugabe as its candidate for general elections next year, and he remains widely respected as a liberation hero by other African leaders.

‘Mugabe must go’?

Party guests — many dressed in clothing printed with Mugabe’s image — chanted “Long live the African icon”.

“Some in their little groups are saying ‘Mugabe must go’ and I ask ‘where must I go?'” Mugabe said, wearing dark glasses and a colourful jacket with a picture of himself on it.

“If ZANU-PF says ‘you should step down’, I will step down,”

He has avoided naming a successor, but his wife, Grace, 51, is seen as a possible candidate along with vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

A coalition of opposition activist groups said the event was “a mockery and a direct insult to the concerns of the citizens”, alleging that poor farmers were forced to donate cattle to feed guests.

Mugabe cut the cakes with the help of Grace as the crowd sang Happy Birthday.

Born on February 21, 1924, Mugabe trained as a teacher and taught in what was then Rhodesia and Ghana before returning home to join the guerrilla war against white-minority rule.

He became prime minister on Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 and then president in 1987.

All schools around Bulawayo were closed on Thursday and Friday to prepare for the celebration, which was attended by some ambassadors and foreign dignitaries.

“Our children were told their classrooms have been turned into boarding facilities, and they (were) frogmarched to join the birthday party,” local poet and opposition activist Desire Moyo told AFP.

Zimbabwe police break up anti-Mugabe protest against government plans to introduce bond notes

Riot police in Zimbabwe used tear gas and water cannon Wednesday to break up a protest by several hundred demonstrators gathered in Harare in a fresh outbreak of opposition to President Robert Mugabe.

An AFP reporter said police dispersed the rally by beating protesters with batons and firing tear gas, injuring several people as the fleeing crowds threw stones in response.

Many of the marchers wore the national flag around their necks seen as a symbol of a surge in recent protests — while unemployed graduates wore academic gowns and others held wooden Christian crosses.

Among the slogans on placards were “Once Liberator, Now Oppressor”, “Mugabe Must Go” and “You Have Failed Mr Mugabe.”

Zimbabwe’s economic collapse has worsened this year, with the government now without the funds to pay even its military or civil servants on time.

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A series of street protests has erupted in past weeks, despite 92-year-old Mugabe’s record of using his ruthless security forces to crush public dissent.

“One of our members was beaten up and seriously injured. We are trying to establish where he has been taken,” Rodwell Nyika, of the Zimbabwe Coalition for Unemployed Graduates, told AFP.

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Fellow protester Samuel Meso said: “We were protesting peacefully and this is what we get.”

The graduates had been denied police permission to march in Harare, but they joined a separate protest against government plans to introduce bond notes a local token currency equivalent to the US dollar.

Many Zimbabweans fear the bond notes could revive the hyperinflation that destroyed the economy in 2008 and 2009.
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A police spokeswoman declined to comment on the beatings, in which four journalist were among those injured.

Speaking out

Police squads had earlier closely monitored the marchers, who had planned to hand in a petition at the finance ministry to demand the bond notes not be issued.

After 36 years of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, Zimbabwe has seen a rise in opposition protests fuelled by internet activism using the hashtag “ThisFlag” a reference to wearing the national flag in public.

Two weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s independence war veterans, who had been loyal allies of Mugabe, issued a strongly worded statement denouncing him and calling on him to step down.

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Despite his advanced age, the president has fought back, vowing to crack down on leaders of the protests and to punish war veterans behind the criticism.

“We know how to deal with our enemies who have been trying to bring about regime change,” Mugabe said in a speech last week.

Several war veterans’ leaders have been arrested on charges of undermining Mugabe’s authority.

On Wednesday, four of them were released on $300 bail each and ordered to report twice a week to the nearest police station, their lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told AFP.

Last month, a one-day strike shut down offices, shops, schools and some government departments.

The strike was called by trade unions and Christian pastor Evan Mawarire, who has become the figurehead of the anti-government protests.

Mawarire is currently in South Africa with no set date for his return to Zimbabwe after Mugabe threatened him directly.

The president, who is increasingly fragile, has vowed to stand for re-election in 2018, though party seniors have long been jockeying to step into the role when he dies.

Mugabe’s wife Grace and vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa are among the possible successors to the world’s oldest president.