Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Statement on the criminalization of Jestina Mukoko
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the personal summons issued by the National Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri through the public media calling for the apprehension of human rights defender, Jestina Mukoko.
This action was completely unwarranted and can only be viewed as an overt display of aggression towards a woman whose only crime is carrying out her lawful mandate of ensuring that the rights of her fellow countrymen and women are not violated.
Given that Miss Mukoko has no criminal record to speak of, we consider the initiation of a police manhunt to apprehend her to be an unparalleled exhibition of the intimidatory tactics employed by the ZRP in its engagement with citizens within and without the civic society sector.
In light of this we wish to state in no uncertain terms that as civic society we will not be dissuaded from carrying out our lawful mandate or be deterred from pursuing our broad goal of seeing democracy being entrenched in this country and justice prevailing.
We stand in solidarity with Ms Mukoko who has since handed herself to the Harare Central Police Station in compliance with the directive issued by the police commissioner.
We are mindful of the malicious posturing on the part of the Police Commissioner Chihuri who took to national TV to issue a summons for Ms Mukoko in an obvious attempt to paint members of civic society as criminals of the highest order.
Ms Mukoko was accompanied by her lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa before being released into the custody of her legal team after being interrogated by the police in connection with four charges namely that: (i) she ran an unregistered organisation (ii) took part in the management of an unregistered organisation (iii) smuggled radio and cellphones and (iv) in line with the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) failed or refused to register as a dealer.
Being cognizant of the fact that today is International Women's Day - we reiterate that the targeting of women activists such as Ms Mukoko is an aberration from the letter and spirit of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and flies in the face of all the political rhetoric on upholding women's rights.
It is unfortunate that the State Security forces continue to exhibit partisanship and lack of professionalism as shown by their failure to follow due process and the action of the Commissioner General is evidence enough that there is need for reforms in the security sector.
We, as a matter of urgency, repeat the following demands to the Inclusive Government (IG):
· That the political leaders in the Inclusive Government act immediately to cease the undue harassment of CSO's throughout the country.
· That the Government of Zimbabwe must urgently take measures to ensure the protection of CSO's and HRDs and not impede their legitimate activities which promote and advance implementation and fulfillment of human rights obligations by the State and non-State actors.
· That the police and prosecuting authorities should exercise professionalism and carry out their duties in a non-partisan manner and desist from the intimidation of NGO workers through unnecessary and unwarranted brutality and searches.
· That JOMIC be given the mandate to urgently investigate the recent actions by the police and other security sector personnel or proxies against CSOs and their work.
We contend that these attempts to criminalise NGOs, and discredit their work are wholly associated with impending constitution referendum and elections and we urge the Government of Zimbabwe to allow CSOs and their members to operate without being criminalised, intimidated and harassed ahead of the crucial referendum scheduled for March 16 and anticipated elections if they are to pass the credibility test.