Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is again tightening his grip on power, ahead of elections expected later this year. In recent weeks, the government, dominated by his ZANU-PF party, has arrested several leading politicians of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was forced into an uneasy coalition with the ZANU-PF by neighbouring countries after its supporters were brutalized and murdered during the 2008 election. Six activists, including MDC’s Munyaradzi Gwisai, were released on bail last week, charged with treason for attending a lecture on the pro-democracy protests in Egypt.
No wonder Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC’s leader and current PM, warned last Friday that “dark and sinister forces have engaged in a hostile takeover of running the affairs of the country.” But Mugabe, 84, whose party coffers are enriched by diamonds smuggled out of his impoverished nation, clearly has no intention of ceding control. He’s pressing ahead with plans that require mining companies be majority owned by locals, and on Monday the president signed agreements with China’s vice-premier, Wang Qishan, that will pump nearly $600 million into the government.