Zimbabwean police recently arrested 46 people who attended a meeting to discuss the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, just days after the government threatened to crack down on any dissent inspired by the North Africa street protests, report Human Rights Watch and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). Some of them have been tortured in custody.
Forty-five of the 46 activists were formally charged either with treason - which carries a penalty of life in jail or death - or with attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Following the arrests various campaigns hoping to defy Robert Mugabe’s clampdown on civic action have been launched, trying to encourage Zimbabweans to follow the lead of other African countries protesting against their dictators.
The campaigns, launched over email and through the social networking websites, Facebook and Twitter, encourage Zimbabweans to hold peaceful marches calling for Mugabe to step down.
The ‘Zimbabwe Million Citizen March’ was launched a week ago, and called for a mass protest on the 01/03/2011 under the theme ‘Power in numbers to remove dictatorship’. At the same time, the ‘Mugabe Must Go’ campaign is also calling for peaceful marches against ZANU PF, while the ‘Mugabe must go in seven days’ campaign, has given Mugabe a seven day ultimatum to step down.
The campaigns have been inspired by the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, which have sparked debate across other African countries still ruled by despots. There are high hopes that the fall of the ruling family in Tunisia and that of Hosni Mubarak’s administration in Egypt, will have a domino effect elsewhere.
While these campaigns may not have worked I am totally blown away by the bravery of my fellow Zimbabweans. Knowing that they face arrest, torture and even death, they still choose to stand up and fight for truth, justice and freedom.