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Six Zimbabwean socialists have just been convicted of “inciting public violence” for organising a meeting about the Egyptian revolution, but to general surprise were given fines and community service instead of prison sentences. Mike Sambo, National Treasurer of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe, and the defendant in another trial related to that of the six, spoke to Solidarity.
From the outset it seemed that the state wanted to send the comrades to jail.
When the magistrate delivered the guilty verdict, he sounded very confident. But the next day there were demonstrations all over the world, and campaigns of phone calls to Zimbabwean ministries. And we organised impressive mobilisations in Zimbabwe too.
Prime minster Morgan Tsvangirai [leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, now in a coalition with Mugabe] put out a statement saying he was shocked by the magistrate’s decision, and that citizens should not be sent to prison for watching a video. We were surprised, because during the trial the prosecution made a big effort to push a wedge between us and the MDC, stressing our criticisms of Tsvangirai.
The protests must also have had some effect on the magistrate, or those giving him orders, as when he came back to deliver the sentence his tone had changed. I think this is a case of solidarity, of people’s power working.
The defence lawyers have put up an appeal to the High Court against both the convictions and the sentences. But the prosecution are boycotting the appeal in order to string things out until 31 March, which is when the community service and the fines kick in.
We need help to pay the $3,000 the comrades have been fined. But what we value most of all is the kind of active, visible solidarity we saw last week.
* You can make a donation to help the ISO pay their fines here