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Mugabe's Persistent Hold on Power Hinders Zimbabwe's Quest for Aid

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (By Bas Czerwinski -- Associated Press)
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At least 170 farmers have been taken to court recently for "illegally" occupying their land in a continuation of a decade-long campaign by Mugabe to reclaim white-owned land despite a regional tribunal's order that it stop.

MDC officials say human rights abuses have declined, but many observers disagree. In recent months, opposition and civil society activists have been dragged in and out of courts and prison cells on charges -- widely considered fabricated -- that they plotted to overthrow Mugabe.

Critics say the detentions point to a central flaw in the power-sharing government: Though Mugabe's party co-chairs the ministry that oversees police, it retained key control of other security forces and influence over the legal system.

"I am a co-minister of home affairs and should be in charge of the police. But just recently, the attorney general . . . gave an order to the police to arrest journalists," said Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC's home affairs minister. "When something like that happens, it becomes difficult to convince the international community that we are in charge."

Some civil society activists complain that the MDC has waffled when it comes to continued abuses. Tsvangirai regularly voices somewhat diplomatic criticism of "forces" within ZANU-PF, but he has also drawn fire for comments such as those he made to a South African newspaper last month that the renewed arrests of prominent activists was a "mishap" and that the seizures of "one or two farms" had been "blown out of proportion."

"They're remaining absolutely bloody silent," said John Worsely-Worswick of Justice for Agriculture, a farmer's group that has long opposed Mugabe. "I've had a number of farmers recently say, 'Listen, we were better off before this inclusive government.' . . . That's an alarming thing to have farmers say."

But, he added, "it's much easier being in the opposition than being inside the government."

Special correspondent Farai Mutsaka in Harare, Zimbabwe, contributed to this report.

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