Students In Zimbabwe Arrested For Watching Coverage Of Arab Uprisings

Robert Mugabe is apparently worried that the uprisings in the Arab world could give his own people ideas:

JOHANNESBURG — Dozens of students, trade unionists and political activists who gathered to watch Al Jazeera and BBC news reports on the uprisings that brought down autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

James Sabau, a spokesman for the police force, which is part of the security services controlled by Mr. Mugabe’s party, was quoted in Monday’s state-controlled newspaper as saying that the 46 people in custody were accused of participating in an illegal political meeting where they watched videos “as a way of motivating them to subvert a constitutionally elected government.”

The evidence seized by the police included a video projector, two DVD discs and a laptop.

Lawyers for the men and women in custody said they had not yet been formally charged but had been advised that they might be accused of “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means,” a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Mr. Mugabe, who turned 87 on Monday, and his party ruled Zimbabwe single-handedly from 1980 until 2009, when regional leaders pressured him into forming a power-sharing government with his longtime political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, after a discredited 2008 election. Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from a June runoff that year to protest state-sponsored beatings of thousands of his supporters. An estimated 350 people died in the violence.

“The illegal meeting’s agenda, Inspector Sabau said, was ‘Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa?’ ” the state-controlled Herald reported.

Several lessons I would think.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, World Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.