In March, six activists from Solidarity’s sister organisation in Zimbabwe successfully avoided prison after being convicted for watching a video of the Arab Spring.In February 2011, police stormed a meeting of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) about the emerging revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The Mugabe regime charged them with treason, a crime punishable by death in Zimbabwe.
Fifty ISO activists were jailed, tortured, and denied prescription medication—even those who are HIV positive. Tragically, David Mpatsi later died after two months in solitary confinement. Thirty-nine activists were later released without charge, but six endured a year of “psychological warfare”, in the words of one of the six, Tatenda Mombeyarara, waiting for a trial date. The charge was downgraded from treason to “conspiracy to commit public violence” with a 10-year prison sentence.
But as leading ISO member and former opposition MP, Munyaradzi Gwisai, described, “the state succeeded in pushing through a guilty verdict despite its weak case. But … it didn’t manage to put us in prison.” Instead activists were given a fine and community service.
The regime is hoping to push through elections to keep Mugabe and Zanu-PF in power. The crackdown on the ISO was designed to sow fear among anti-regime activists.
But it was forced to back away, explains Tatenda Mombeyarara, because “they were worried their repression risked igniting the rebellion they had hoped to stop”.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, grew out of the anti-Mugabe union fightback in the 1990s, but increasingly courted Western advice and lobbied for sanctions on the regime. In 2009 it was incorporated into a coalition government with Zanu-PF, after failing to push for mass protests against the regime. But Mugabe has remained in control.
The defendants still need to raise thousands of dollars for legal costs. Please consider donating some money to help them:
ISO Zim Solidarity, Unity Bank, Birmingham, Sort Code: 08-60-01, Account number 20136938.
Send a solidarity message to: [email protected]
Visit the web site for the campaign to free them: http://www.freethemnow.com/