Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai emerged Friday in a wheel chair from the hospital where he had been receiving treatment since late Tuesday for a fractured skull and other injuries sustained in police custody following his arrest Sunday.
Despite his serious injuries allegedly inflicted by police in severe and multiple beatings, Tsvangirai expressed defiance and optimism in a statement published Friday in the Independent newspaper in Britain. Tsvangirai said he will "soldier on until Zimbabwe is free," adding that “democratic change in Zimbabwe is within sight.”
Other officials of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, including Grace Kwinjeh, deputy foreign affairs secretary, and Sekai Holland, research and policy secretary were said to be in stable but serious condition at the Avenues Clinic in Harare.
Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai will not be able to resume his duties immediately.
Diplomatic initiatives continued around the world in response to events including the police killing of an MDC activist Sunday at an abortive protest meeting, the arrest of Tsvangirai and about 50 opposition and civil society leaders and supporters, and in particular the severe beatings police allegedly administered to those prisoners.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to identify those who committed violence against Tsvangirai and other opponents of the Harare government, and impose sanctions upon them.
Beckett urged the U.N. panel to send a mission to Harare to investigate alleged police brutality. Britain is also pushing for the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue, but South Africa, now in the Security Council’s rotating chair, has raised objections.
Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, said Britain and the United States must not press their agenda on other nations.
The U.S. government dispatched Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron to African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for emergency talks on the crisis. A State Department official confirmed that Lowenkron had arrived and opened consultations with A.U. officials, diplomats accredited to the A.U. and with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Diplomatic sources said Washington wants the A.U. to take a firmer position with the Harare administration on human rights in light of the alleged beatings.
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told journalists in Dar-es-Salaam Friday that the Southern African Development Community would meet in the Tanzanian capital later this month to discuss the crisis. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete met with President Robert Mugabe Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
Mr. Kikwete chairs SADC’s committee on politics, defense and security, which holds a brief to seek a resolution to the long-running Zimbabwe crisis. The so-called troika on Zimbabwe also includes Lesotho and Namibia. Membe said SADC is urging Harare to open diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis. He said the two presidents agreed that Zimbabwe needs to explore new avenues to seek a solution to the crisis.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa issued a statement Friday condemning the apparent human rights violations in Harare. “We Africans should hang our heads in shame,” his statement said. “How can what is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa?”
Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said in an interview that the U.S. demarche to the African Union is a significant and welcome development.