As reported earlier on WL Central, a million citizen march was planned for today in Harare, by a facebook group with currently 1292 members. While the march did not materialize, and neither did protests or demonstrations of any kind, the group is claiming a victory for provoking a reaction from the country’s military and police. Armoured cars, trucks of riot police and Israeli-built water cannon vehicles had swept through Harare over the weekend, fanning out into townships around the city. Authorities gave no explanation for the display of force.
The failure of any protest materializing could have been due to the government reaction, or it could indicate, in a country where 15% of the population have internet access, that they simply had not heard of it. There is no mention of it on the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition website and they in fact have stated that they were not aware of it. Neither did it have any stated backing of any other local human rights or political opposition movements.
WL Central also reported earlier on the arrest, imprisonment, and torture for some, of Munyaradzi Gwisai, the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) general coordinator, and 45 others on February 19. They were charged on the 23rd with treason, which carries the death penalty, or subverting a constitutionally elected government, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment for watching a video of the uprising in Egypt.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed her deep concern over the case today. “Many people in North Africa have said clearly and loudly that there is no democracy without freedom of expression and assembly. It is both ironic and disturbing that in Zimbabwe, activists are being arrested and abused for simply discussing the efforts in North Africa to bring change through peaceful demonstrations.”