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2003-06-20

Zimbabwe’s Top Court Orders Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai Freed After Spending Two Weeks in Prison

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The Zimbabwean ambassador to the U.S. debates critic Patrick Bond on Mugabe’s rule, free speech and land reform.

Zimbabwe’s top court has ordered opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be released on bail.

The leading critic of President Robert Mugabe’s government had been in jail for two weeks. He faced separate charges of both plotting to overthrow Mugabe, and plotting to murder Mugabe.

Tsvangirai heads the opposition group the Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC staged five days of mass protests and a national strike in an attempt to force Mugabe either to step down or to negotiate a settlement. Tsvangirai’s lawyers say he was simply advocating peaceful protest.

The MDC blames President Mugabe for creating the country’s worst economic and political crisis since Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. Seven out of every ten people are unemployed. The country now suffers from 300 percent inflation, one of the highest rates in the world.

Tsvangirai’s group blames the economic crisis in part on Mugabe’s policy of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks. Last year, Mugabe set off a storm of controversy when he allowed his supporters to forcibly, and in some cases violently, evict white farmers from their land.

President Mugabe says he is determined to redraw the colonial map. Up until last year, a tiny white minority controlled more than half of Zimbabwe’s fertile soil. But critics say Mugabe is handing away the best land to his friends.

Last week, Mugabe told a crowd of supporters the government will never allow MDC to hold a mass action again and accused them of being in league with the British. Mugabe also said whites had never accepted Zimbabwe as an independent country and told them to go live in Rhodesia. Rhodesia was the name for Zimbabwe when it was a British colony. It was named after Cecil Rhodes.

Meanwhile, the United Nations yesterday issued a report stating that large-scale commercial farming has dropped by 90 percent in recent years. The report said 400,000 farm workers have lost their jobs. And half of the country’s 11 million people are now in need of food aid.

  • Simbi Mubako, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the United States. He is participating in a forum called Up Close Zimbabwe in Atlanta on Saturday.
  • Patrick Bond, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and author of the book, Zimbabwe’s Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice

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