3 May 2007

Zimbabwe: Govt Hits Back At Critics On the Net

THE Zimbabwe government is hitting back at its critics through an online propaganda campaign.

President Robert Mugabe's government has come under sustained international pressure over accusations of human rights abuses and torture of his opponents.

While more and more governments across Africa have embraced the internet for information dissemination, the Zimbabwe government has been lagging behind with only a sprinkling of departments running websites.

The government's first bold effort at fighting back at its critics has been the opening of a website for the Home Affairs department (click here ) which is responsible for the police.

A detailed 57-page document recently presented by the Zimbabwe government to Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state in Tanzania has been posted on the website - revealing for the first time how Mugabe framed his government's defence to accusations of police brutality.

The document, titled Opposition forces in Zimbabwe: A trail of violence, features images of violence blamed on the opposition leaders, human rights groups and students and "separately or jointly strategising for regime change in Zimbabwe".

The Zimbabwe government accused several groups of engaging in acts of violence, singling out the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the National Constitutional Assembly, the Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Christian Alliance and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

"When all these opposition forces realised that their concerted effort and agenda for regime change was not bearing desired results (and) with advice from their sponsors and supporters in the West, they came up with the Broad Alliance whose agenda is still the same -- to mobilise people for regime change in Zimbabwe.

"The Broad Alliance's defiance campaign for regime change and overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Zimbabwe has resulted in a plethora of criminal activities and political violence in the country, especially in Harare, where people have been attacked, buses stoned and cars burned to ashes, police officers seriously injured," says parts of the document.

President Mugabe was tackled by SADC leaders after opposition leaders were arrested and brutally attacked while in police custody. The Zimbabwe government responded by crafting the document which also shows Western diplomats outside a Harare court alongside opposition leaders, proof the government says, that Western countries are colluding with the opposition.

Mugabe claimed he escaped censure at the SADC summit after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and scores of his supporters were left nursing serious injuries after police crushed a planned rally in Harare.

"I told SADC that yes, he (Tsvangirai) was beaten and bashed, and I told them that this was done by the police. I did not hide anything ... and he went to cry to tell (Christopher) Dell (US ambassador to Zimbabwe) that he had been beaten."

SADC leaders in fact appeared to turn on the opposition and implored the United States and Britain to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The police document on the Home Affairs website shows several images, including those of police officers who suffered severe burns after alleged opposition elements hurled petrol bombs in their houses.

Other pictures show buses and private cars allegedly smashed during opposition-organised protests.

The MDC and other human rights groups deny claims of leading a violent insurrection to oust Mugabe.

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