Zimbabwe opposition figure attacked
Arrests and beatings in Harare as Tsvangirai says Zimbabwe is at "tipping point".
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2007 19:31 GMT
Zimbabwe police detained almost 50 opposition members in Harare on March 11

A member of Zimbabwe's opposition has been prevented from leaving the country after being beaten up en route to Harare airport, officials said.


The incident comes as Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway faction of the MDC, is to be charged with inciting public violence.


MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said Zimbabwe

Chamisa was on his way to attend a meeting of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) and European Union (EU) in Belgium.


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Bango, an MDC spokesman, said: "He was badly beaten this morning whilst he was on his way to the airport by security agents.


"The security agents have taken his passport, laptop and his luggage. One of his eyes has been badly injured.


"It's really bad. His head has been severely injured."


'Inciting violence'


Rashweat Mukundu, a media committee member of the Save Zimbabwe coalition, said the attack prevented the world from seeing the firm hand of Mugabe's government.


"This is an attempt in stopping the world from seeing what exactly the brutality is that was subjected on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other civic activists.


"This is a violation of freedom of movement rights, violation of freedom of association. This also marks a turning point in the political situation in Zimbabwe."


"Things are bad ... but I think that this crisis has reached a tipping point, and we could see the beginning of the end of this dictatorship in whatever form"

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader

Mutambara was arrested at Harare International Airport on Saturday as he was travelling to South Africa where his family is based.


Harrison Nkomo, his lawyer, said: "He is being charged with inciting public violence.


"These are the same charges which he was charged with last week, which the high court ruled against. We are now seeking for his immediate release from the police cells."


Mutambara was among 49 people, including Tsvangirai, who were beaten by police after being arrested when prevented from holding a mass prayer meeting on March 11.


One activist was shot dead as Zimbabwean police used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition. They beat activists during and after arrests, according to opposition members.


"Tipping point"


Tsvangirai, speaking by telephone from Harare to the BBC, said Zimbabwe is facing a critical moment.


Tsvangirai's supporters have vowed to drive
Mugabe from office with civil disobedience [AP]
"Things are bad," Tsvangirai said, "but I think that this crisis has reached a tipping point, and we could see the beginning of the end of this dictatorship in whatever form."


On Saturday, two other activists, Grace Kwinje and Sekai Holland – who were seeking medical treatment in South Africa – were also stopped from leaving the country.


Tsvangirai's supporters say they will drive Mugabe from office with a campaign of civil disobedience. Opponents of Mugabe blame him for repression, corruption, food shortages and inflation of 1,600 per cent.


Tsvangirai also criticised South Africa for its role in the crisis.


He called the country a "critical player [that] could have been more strong," and urged continued pressure from both the African Union and the US.


Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, has said quiet diplomacy is preferable to public condemnation. Western governments have condemned the violence.


The US is threatening to strengthen sanctions, and last month the EU renewed targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and a travel ban on Mugabe and more than 100 of his senior associates.

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