A human rights activist missing for three weeks was taken to court and state media said she was accused in a plot to overthrow Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Late on Wednesday, a judge ordered Jestina Mukoko and six other activists sent to a hospital under police guard so that allegations of torture could be investigated, a human rights lawyer said. The lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the seven would be brought to court again on Monday to determine the next step, while another judge had ordered another group of about two dozen detainees released unconditionally.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu joined the growing international pressure on longtime leader Mugabe to give up power.
Asked during a BBC interview if Mugabe should be removed by force, Tutu said there should “certainly be the threat of it.”
Tutu, the retired archbishop of Cape Town, also said he is ashamed of South Africa’s handling of the Zimbabwe issue at the UN Security Council, where China and Russia in July vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that proposed worldwide sanctions against Mugabe and 13 officials.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki mediated the power-sharing deal between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and South Africa reiterated this week it saw the deal as the only way forward, despite new US and British opposition to it.
“We have betrayed our legacy, how much more suffering is going to make us say: ‘No, we have given Mr Mugabe enough time,’” Tutu told the BBC.
Mukoko’s court appearance came days after Tsvangirai threatened to withdraw from talks on implementing the power sharing deal unless at least 42 missing activists and opposition officials were released or charged. Mukoko had been taken from her home on Dec. 3, the day activists held nationwide protests against the country’s deepening economic and health crises, and scores of others had disappeared in recent weeks.
Charging Mukoko, the respected head of a group known as the Zimbabwe Peace Project, in a plot already widely dismissed as a fabrication is a sign Mugabe is not prepared to back down.
The Herald, the state-run daily, said Mukoko and the other activists with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would be charged with attempting to recruit fighters to overthrow Mugabe. The Herald quoted police as saying the MDC was training fighters in Botswana.
Zimbabwean officials have repeatedly made such accusations, which have been denied by Botswana and the MDC. Last week, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe dismissed the allegations, saying the main regional bloc opened an investigation when Mugabe’s regime first raised them last month, but “we never believed” them.