POLICE say they have foiled Egyptian-style uprisings in Zimbabwe after storming a meeting of 46 rights activists in Harare and arresting them, including the former Highfield MP, Munyaradzi Gwisai.
The activists face charges of “plotting to oust a constitutionally-elected government”, said Inspector James Sabau, the police spokesman for Harare province.
Police said they also seized a video projector, a laptop and two DVDs which Gwisai used to show videos from the Tunisian and Egyptian protests which led to the ouster of those countries’ leaders.
“The video showed the uprising and demonstrations and subsequent removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia,” Inspector Sabau said.
The videos were shown to the activists, police said, “as a way of motivating them to subvert a constitutionally-elected government” of President Robert Mugabe.
Targeted in Saturday's raid were activists from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the Medical Professions Allied Workers Union.
Gwisai, the general coordinator of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) in Zimbabwe, convened the meeting, police added.
In leaflets distributed at the gathering, Gwisai said: “ISO calls on workers, students and working people to support the struggle in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers.”
The meeting’s agenda was listed as: “Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia. What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa?”
Police said the activists were due to appear in court “soon”.
President Mugabe, in power for 31 years, agreed to share power with opposition rivals following disputed elections in 2008, but critics and his coalition partners say human rights abuses against his opponents continue, helped by his Zanu PF party’s stranglehold on the security services.
Former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister, recently voiced his support for the Egyptian protests, but analysts say similar uprisings are unlikely in Zimbabwe owing to the perceived passivity of the local population and the likelihood of a violent crackdown by Mugabe's shock troops.