Image: Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
Horacio Villalobos  /  EPA file
Supporters of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have been assaulted this week. State-run radio has accused him of inciting anti-government protests.
updated 2/4/2011 5:32:54 AM ET 2011-02-04T10:32:54

Zimbabwe's state-run radio has accused the prime minister of trying to spark anti-government uprisings similar to those seen in Tunisia and Egypt, as an independent doctors' group said recent political violence has left at least three people hospitalized.

The group said Thursday that several supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party have been treated for "grave injuries" this week. The stone-throwing and assaults started Monday.

On Wednesday, armed riot police sealed off the downtown offices of the Harare City Council as it was besieged by mobs chanting slogans of longtime President Robert Mugabe's party, witnesses said. Council staff fled the building.

Calm had returned to downtown Harare early Thursday.

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Activists say Zimbabwe is already seeing a surge in political violence and intimidation as the government prepares for national elections, even though the vote has not been scheduled yet.

State radio, which is controlled by Mugabe loyalists, said Thursday that Tsvangirai — the former opposition leader — intended to incite his supporters to hold a mass uprising against three decades of authoritarian rule by Mugabe.

The state broadcaster cited recent remarks by Tsvangirai to the U.S.-run Fox News in which he defended mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt and allegedly implied he supported similar action in Zimbabwe. It claimed Tsvangirai was planning an uprising "against himself" as he had taken vows to join the government when a power-sharing coalition was formed in 2009.

Mob attacks, threats
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the claims that Tsvangirai planned to lead a march in downtown Harare were "hogwash."

Mugabe's party has blamed turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt on the two countries' close links with the U.S. and Western financiers. It has said those countries "supped with the devil" and that similar protests were unlikely in Zimbabwe or its allies Cuba and Venezuela, which are antagonistic toward the West.

On Sunday, the Southern Africa Coalition for the Survivors of Torture said in a new report that tensions rose markedly in January ahead of proposed elections this year.

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It reported mob attacks, threats, assaults, questionable arrests by police and at least one shooting in the capital and its suburbs.

In a statement made available Thursday, the independent doctors' group said it had evidence from witness accounts that at least 70 Mugabe militants were brought to the western Mbare township, the center of Monday's violence, by truck after the apartment of a Tsvangirai district official was ransacked and set on fire there last week.

The militants sang songs and slogans of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and carried party flags. Nine people were injured in Monday's clashes centering around a district office of Tsvangirai's party. Seven people were arrested, none of them the attackers, witnesses reported.

"There are no reports of perpetrators being arrested," the doctors said.

Tsvangirai entered a coalition with Mugabe after violence-plagued elections in 2008. Mugabe has called for national elections later in 2011 to bring an end to the shaky coalition.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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