Just three weeks before the presidential runoff, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is giving the opposition no room to maneuver — harassing and threatening to arrest its candidate, banning its rallies and attacking diplomats who try to investigate political violence.
Even food is a weapon, with a ban on aid agencies ensuring the poorest Zimbabweans must turn to Mugabe for help even if they blame him for the collapse of the economy.
Morgan Tsvangirai out-polled Mugabe and two other candidates in the March 29 first round of presidential voting, but did not garner the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to avoid a runoff. In recent days, it has become increasingly clear Mugabe does not plan to let Tsvangirai come close to toppling him in the June 27 runoff.
Tsvangirai tried to campaign around Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, on Friday. He was stopped at two roadblocks, and the second time ordered to go to a police station about 50km from Bulawayo.
About two hours later, he and reporters with him were allowed to leave the station. They drove back to Bulawayo under police escort.
Tsvangirai’s spokesman, George Sibotshiwe, said Tsvangirai was questioned by police at the station for 25 minutes, and was told that all party rallies in the country had been banned indefinitely.
“We are dismayed that our president has not been allowed to access the Zimbabwean people at a crucial stage in this campaign,” Sibotshiwe said.
In a statement on Friday, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change said police had banned its rallies out of concern for the safety of Tsvangirai and other party leaders. Sibotshiwe called the justification “nonsense,” and said the ban was “a clear indication that the regime will do everything necessary to remain in power.”
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena insisted that “people are free to campaign as they choose,” but he said Tsvangirai had consistently broken the law by failing to notify police of his rallies.
Tsvangirai left the country soon after the first round of voting, in March, and his party has said he was the target of a military assassination plot. He had only returned to Zimbabwe late last month to campaign for the runoff.
The government-controlled media has focused on Mugabe and ZANU-PF, all but ignoring Tsvangirai’s campaign, raising the question of whether Zimbabweans in isolated rural areas even know the opposition leader has returned.
Tsvangirai’s party, blaming state agents, says at least 60 of its supporters have been slain in the past two months.
The latest setback for Tsvangirai came as UN aid agencies said they were deeply concerned because aid groups have been ordered to halt operations. Millions of Zimbabweans depend on international groups for food and other aid as the economy crumbles.
Without the private agencies, impoverished Zimbabweans will be dependent on the government and Mugabe’s party, both of which distribute food and other aid.
The US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said on Friday that Zimbabwean authorities were now supplying food mostly to Mugabe supporters.
On Thursday, aid groups in Zimbabwe were sent a memorandum from social welfare minister Nicholas Goche ordering an indefinite suspension of field work.
Aid deliveries to more than 4 million people in the African country will be severely hampered by the decision, said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.
More than half Zimbabwe’s population live on less than US$1 a day and life expectancy is only 35 years, according to the UN.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”