Socialist Worker

Zimbabwe: most arrested socialists freed - but the rest need support

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2242

150 people joined a demonstration outside the Zimbabwean consulate in Johannesburg (Pic: Claire Ceruti)

150 people joined a demonstration outside the Zimbabwean consulate in Johannesburg (Pic: Claire Ceruti)

A court in Zimbabwe has freed 39 of 45 activists who were arrested after they met and watched a video about the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

This is an enormous relief, but six are still being held and charged with treason—and conviction can carry a death sentence.

Rehad Desai, convenor of the South African based Defend The Zimbabwean Treason Trialists campaign, told Socialist Worker, “Campaigners created enough political pressure to force the ruling Zanu-PF party to drop charges against 39 of the defendants.

“But Zanu-PF is intent on punishing the more high-profile socialist activists. We have to increase the momentum of the campaign if the remaining treason charges are to be dropped.

“The continuing clampdown on all oppositional formations shows how seriously president Robert Mugabe is trying to cripple his opponents.”

The six are being held without bail and are due in court again on 21 March. The magistrate said that they tried to “incite the others to revolt against the present government”.

The International Socialist Organisation (ISO) organised the meeting in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers.

A police spy reported that, as well as discussing North Africa, speakers said there was a long-ruling authoritarian leadership in Zimbabwe.

They described hunger, poverty and unemployment while a few individuals enjoyed wealth.

About 100 police charged in and arrested everybody. Many were badly beaten and several were tortured.

Their supporters had to get a court order before they received any medical treatment. It was several days before even HIV positive people were allowed their anti-retroviral drugs.

Those still held are ISO general coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai, anti-debt campaigner Hopewell Gumbo, gender activist Antonater Choto, Zimbabwe National Students Union leaders Welcome Zimuto and Eddson Chakuma, and labour activist Tatenda Mombeyarara.

On the evening of the hearing one of their supporters said, “Munya and three others are back in central prison in solitary confinement. We went to give them food. After a day in court they had not had anything. The prison would not let us come to bring food as it was late.”

Rehad said, “Our campaign is working with the detainees’ families and supporters.

“We need money urgently for legal fees and to make sure detainees’ families don’t get evicted and their children can eat. We also need funds to keep spreading information.”

Donations: CDL– MINE-LINE Worker Solidarity Fund,
Deposit reference “Zimbabwe Treason Trialists Solidarity Fund”,
NEDBANK, Killarney Branch, Johannesburg.
Branch code: 191 60535,
Current Account number: 100 185 3784,

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