Concern for Zimbabwean minister arrested for calling Mugabe a liar

“By midnight Friday, I had gone to more than five police stations,” said Selby Hwacha, of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but there was no information about him.

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A Zimbabwe High Court judge late Saturday ordered police to produce an opposition minister arrested allegedly for accusing President Robert Mugabe of lying.

Jameson Timba, a minister in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office, disappeared Friday and had not been heard from since. He serves as the secretary for international relations in Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Judge Joseph Musakwa made the ruling after Selby Hwacha, Timba’s lawyer, made an urgent application to the court. The judge gave the police until Sunday to produce Timba.

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An official at Harare central police station on Friday confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa that Jameson Timba, the secretary for international relations and minister in the premier’s office, was being held there.

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“We have been holding Jameson Timba since Friday afternoon. He might appear in court on Monday,” the official said.

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Timba’s arrest Friday has been linked to the publication of an article last week in which he was quoted as saying that Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party had lied about the outcome of a summit held by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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The weekly Sunday Times reported clashes at the meeting between Mugabe and South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC mediator on Zimbabwe.

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Timba was facing charges of “undermining the president by calling Mugabe a liar” and the party now feared for his life, MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said.

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The arrest of Timba is likely to further strain relations in the fragile coalition government formed more than two years ago and led by Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

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The two have already clashed on a number of issues, including the appointment of senior officials and democratic reforms. Mugabe is calling for elections to end the coalition government, while Tsvangirai wants a new constitution first.

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The MDC advised the people of Zimbabwe that since yesterday afternoon, the police had not allowed Hon. Jameson Timba, our Secretary for International Relations, access to lawyers although the police had earlier indicated that he was detained at Harare Central Police Station.

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Hon. Timba is also the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and MP for Mt Pleasant.

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When our lawyers visited the said police station, the police said the minister was not there. Hon. Timba’s family, relatives, friends and the MDC have not been able to supply him with food.

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The MDC has it on good authority that Hon. Timba is being tortured at a secret location.

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The party calls upon the police to disclose the whereabouts of the minister. We call upon SADC and the international community to intervene and stop the gross human rights violations against Minister Timba.

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The MDC and the Timba family fear for the minister’s life and safety.