Zimbabwe Opposition Chiefs Arrested
Robert Mugabe is the anti-Mandela. One of the heroes of the Rhodesian War and one of the fathers of independent Zimbabwe, he has turned into a despot, unwilling to let democracy take its course. His supposedly pro-Zimbabwean measures have reduced Zimbabwe's economy to ruins, turning its people into squatters. If Mugabe disagrees with you, you get a knock on the door from the cops. If there are too many of you to arrest, your neighborhood gets razed to the ground.
The leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, and several colleagues have been detained.
They were seized after trying to hold a prayer meeting that the government said breached a ban on political gatherings.
Riot police sealed off roads in Harare and used tear gas and water cannons as they fought running battles with activists, opposition officials said.
The rally had been called by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign - a coalition of groups agitating for political change.
Officials for the Mr Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, told the BBC that he was being held with five other senior members of the leadership at Highfield police station.
MDC spokesman Eliphas Mukonoweshuro said the protesters were not doing anything wrong.
"It was not a political rally, therefore it was not subject to the provisions of the public order and security act, and there was no permission required to be obtained from the police," he told the BBC.
"But the police went ahead and arrested a broad cross section of leaders of civic organisations, political parties, labour and students."
The three-month ban on political meetings was imposed after violence at an opposition rally last month.
A Save Zimbabwe Campaign statement said lawyers were being denied access to detained supporters. It also accused police of forcing shops, bars and churches to shut down for the day.
"Highfield has been turned into a war zone," it said.
Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, retains an iron grip on power.
Last month, in an interview to mark his 83rd birthday, the veteran president said he had no intention of stepping down.
A friend of mine from Johannesburg tells me that South Africa is under intermittent pressure to turn off the lights in Harare, as SA supplies most of Zim's electricity. The reason that this does not happen is that the ruling party will always be able to look after itself, whilst the rest of the country would suffer even more.