Zimbabwe: 'We are Demanding an End to Violence, and Free and Fair Elections'

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A statement from those who are protesting against Robert Mugabe.

Revolutionary greetings, comrades.

On 15 February about 1,500 to 2,000 people attended the 'No to dictatorship - no to neoliberal poverty' demonstration. Earlier the High Court had refused to hear our urgent application against the police for banning the demonstration. However, the demonstration went ahead, but only in Harare--demonstrations in the other towns were cancelled on the day because of the heavy police presence.

For strategic reasons demonstrators assembled at two different points in Harare. At the advertised starting point there was a heavy police presence, and five comrades were arrested--Munyaradzi Gwisai, the International Socialist Organisation member who is an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Ray Majongwe and Innocent Sibanda, both from the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), and two others from the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP).

At the other starting point the demonstrators managed to march to the Ministry of Justice offices, where they were teargassed and beaten by the police and ten people were arrested.

They are charged under POSA--the recently passed repressive act. In the police cells the comrades demonstrated against the terrible conditions which they were subject to. In response the riot police severely assaulted many of them. Munyaradzi and others have since been released on bail. Further court appearances are due, however, as the illegal status of the march will continue to be challenged through the courts. Solidarity demonstrations outside the magistrates court will also continue. What follows is a statement released by the groups which were involved in the planning of the demonstration:

'The National Constitutional Assembly, International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe (ISOZ), Zimbabwe National Students Association (ZINASU) and Zimbabwe Liberators Platform strongly condemn the arrest of 15 comrades at the demonstration on Friday 15 February, the firing of teargas and the beatings of demonstrators by the police.

'We also condemn the terrible conditions that these comrades are receiving, including the beatings by riot police in the cells. We stand in solidarity and support the resistance of the arrested comrades in protest at the conditions they are subject to.

'Friday 15 February marked the beginning of mass resistance, and we welcome the resolutions of the stakeholders' meetings of Saturday 16 February convened by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for embarking on mass action.

'We need to attack the system where it hurts most and, as agreed, the mass stayaways and the demonstrations of 1997 and 1998 are the only way forward. The stayaway which is going to be held soon must be fully mobilised and backed by demonstrations to be effective.

'We are demanding an end to violence, free and fair elections, immediate reversal of POSA, reversal of new tuition policy at colleges and universities and a new constitution and a new Labour Act now. United we stand--working people of the world unite!'