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Statement on the continued threats against civil society leaders in Zimbabwe

Statement on the continued threats against civil society leaders in Zimbabwe

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition wishes to express its displeasure about the increase in threats and harassment incidents against civil society leaders in Zimbabwe by the police and other security forces.

On the 22nd of March 2010, Zimrights Director, Mr. Okay Machisa was briefly detained at the Harare Central Police Station and questioned over the planned launch of an art exhibition entitled 'Reflections' launched on the 23rd of March 2010. During the arrest, police seized pictures of political violence victims depicting the journey of the democratisation struggle from the violently disrupted 11 March 2007 Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting to the signing of the Global Political Agreement on 15 September 2008, which were being set for display at the Delta Gallery in Harare.

The Coalition is deeply concerned by the systematic, politically motivated violence which is resurfacing over the past eight weeks. Listed below are some of the cases that have taken place;

Date

Event

19 February

Summoning of General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) Secretary General; Ms. Gertrude Hambira before the Joint Operations Command (JOC) where she was interrogated about a documentary on human rights violations during the latest land grab in Chegutu area as a sample of the chaotic land reform programme that started in 2000. GAPWUZ launched the documentary in February entitled "House of Justice" which the military junta perceived as 'provacative'.

01 March

Summoning of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leadership including National Coordinator, Jenni Williams by the co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi where they were accused of presenting the inclusive government in negative light jeopardising the country's potential investment opportunities through their continuous demonstrations demanding for better social service delivery.

18 March

Death threats to Director of Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust and journalist, Stanley Kwenda by senior police officer, Chief Superintendent Crispen Makedenge forcing him into exile.

23 March

Arrest of Zimrights Director, Okay Machisa after he, together with other ZimRights activists, received threats from unknown people over the past weeks on their activities around the constitutional reform process.

The continued intimidation and threats on civil society leaders in Zimbabwe by members of the police and security forces are in direct violation of the Freedoms of Expression and Association protected in the Zimbabwean constitution and regional and international treaties. The trend also goes against the letter and spirit of Article 12 and 14 of the Inter-Party Political Agreement (IPA) which recognises the importance of and calls for the upholding of freedoms of Assembly, Association, Expression and Communication.

Of note is the fact that in almost all the incidences, civil society activists are being harassed owing to their endeavour to tackle issues of transitional justice raising concerns that the security sector and some elements within the inclusive government are deliberately retarding democratic progress.

These incidents also come against the backdrop of a worsening political environment in the country punctuated by the arrest of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters and increase in cases of politically motivated violence in mostly rural communities.

The inclusive government, which many hoped would address the challenges faced in the governance and political arenas, has done little to sanitise the political sphere. State institutions, which are supposed to safeguard the interests of all citizens, remain highly compromised and controlled by ZANU PF while the legislative reform agenda has been shelved in total disregard of the IPA which calls for the repeal of repressive laws.

The Coalition is concerned about whether Zimbabwe's transition will ultimately lead to a more democratic society or whether the country will slide back to the chaos which characterised the period preceding the formation of the inclusive government.

In light of the above, The Coalition demands that;

Police and security forces;

  • Desist from summoning or arresting members of civil society on unsubstantiated grounds
  • Uphold and protect Zimbabweans' fundamental freedoms including the Freedoms of Association, Expression and Assembly

The inclusive government;

  • Urgently conducts institutional and legislative reforms to ensure that the freedom and security of persons is respected and security forces execute their duties professionally and impartially.

Issued by:

Sydney Chisi

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Spokesperson

Contact Number: +263912462328

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