The Reuters news agency said police confirmed the arrests at a meeting convened over the weekend by the Zimbabwe branch of the militant International Socialist Organization where videos were shown and an agenda item allegedly asked: “What lessons can be learnt by the working class in Zimbabwe and Africa?”
Police spokesman James Sabau told state radio that authorities would clamp down on any alleged plotters of “destabilization” against the government.
The independent Lawyers for Human Rights group said those detained in Harare and expected to appear in court were holding an “academic discussion” on North Africa and deny any wrongdoing.
The group said police were drafting charges against former opposition lawmaker Munyaradi Gwisai, an official of the International Socialist Organization, and labor and student activists arrested with him.
Police say attendees called for solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers and intended to incite Zimbabweans to hold demonstrations against three decades of authoritarian rule by President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe, who yesterday marked his 87th birthday, returned home on Sunday from a weeklong trip to Singapore where he underwent medical checks after a cataract operation on a previous visit in January, his office said.
State radio said Mugabe would mark his birthday on Saturday in celebrations with children and youth leaders, an annual tradition, the radio said, that encourages young people to follow his example as a statesman.
Among birthday greetings in the state media controlled by Mugabe loyalists, Mugabe is wished “many more years of good health” and is described as a visionary who dedicated himself to serving Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa.
Mugabe arrived quietly on Sunday and broke with his tradition by not addressing his supporters who had gathered at the main Harare airport to greet him.
Mugabe’s party has denied reports he underwent cancer-related surgery during an extended vacation in Asia in January.
But the party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader in a shaky two-year-old coalition government, said Mugabe’s absences have disrupted routine government business since December.