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Opinion: Zimbabwe's jailing of doctors is an outrage

Charges against American medics highlight the Mugabe regime's repression.

If this were an isolated incident, perhaps it could be chalked up to a bureaucratic snafu. But it is not, the government has a cumbersome procedure for the registration of medical personnel, that is open to political meddling.

Two years ago when cholera swept the country and Zimbabweans were dying by the hundreds, the Mugabe government, using the same medical registration regulations, prevented Medecins sans Frontieres and other reputable international groups from setting up emergency clinics to save lives.

The Mugabe government has shown the same willful control in other areas, too. The South African pop group Freshlyground recently released a humorous and satirical song and video in which Mugabe, 86, is compared to a chicken and is encouraged to leave office.

The Mugabe government, swiftly and without any sense of humor, banned Freshlyground from performing in Zimbabwe.

Opposition lawmaker Douglas Mwonzora has been charged with calling Mugabe a goblin. Mwonzora, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe who is helping to draft a new constitution for Zimbabwe, allegedly made the remark about Mugabe more than a year ago at a political rally. Several Zimbabweans have gone to jail for insulting Mugabe.

These are not the actions of a benign government that embraces democracy and different points of view. These are not the actions of a government that accepts it cannot and should not control all aspects of life in Zimbabwe. These are not the actions of a government that has joined a power-sharing government in good faith and has moderated its draconian policies.

The Mugabe regime does not regard as legitimate any actions or points of view independent from its political vehicle, Zanu-Patriotic Front. With the Harare government brazenly demonstrating its instransigence, why is anyone surprised that American and European legislators are reluctant to lift the limited sanctions on Zimbabwe? Faced with such bullying tactics, and knowing the Mugabe government’s propensity for violence, those hoping for any semblance of free and fair elections in 2011 should beware.