23 March 2012
Zimbabwe's Rights Situation Deteriorating Sharply
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is alarmed and dismayed by the sharp deterioration of the political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe as evidenced by a series of recent events detailed below. These events emphasize our considered view that the political field is not level and conditions are not conducive to the holding of democratic, non-violent, free and fair elections. Calls for early elections in the absence of critical reforms are therefore misplaced, premature and outright irresponsible.
The Zim 6
The outrageous conviction of six activists by court on the ridiculous charge of conspiracy to commit public violence simply because they watched a video of the Egypt revolution early last year is the clearest indication yet of a severely compromised and extremely politicized judiciary that is no longer independent. Both the conviction of the six, and their sentencing to fines of US$500.00 each; 24 months suspended imprisonment; and 420 hours of community service each; have no basis in law.
The compromised judiciary is using the Zim 6 to communicate a message of intolerance to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and to induce paralyzing fear in pro-democracy activists. We totally reject this message of fear and oppression and wish to register appreciation to all activists who stood in solidarity with the Zim 6 leading to a significant climb down from the judiciary which had appeared set to give the Zim6 a harsh jail term.
We are convinced that the six activists - Munyaradzi Gwisai, Antonater Choto, Welcome Zimuto, Hopewell Gumbo, Tatenda Mombeyarara and Edson Chakuma committed no crime and we are encouraged by their decision, through their lawyer, to appeal against both conviction and sentence. Following their arrest, all six activists were severely tortured while in police custody, but those responsible have not been brought to account. In sharp contrast, in a serious indictment of the judiciary and police, we have a total failure to ensure justice for over 200 MDC supporters killed during the 2008 elections.
7 Students Arrested for Celebrating Non-custodial sentence for Zim 6
Following the sentencing of the Zim 6, seven students were arrested outside court for celebrating the non-custodial sentence. They remain detained at Harare Central Police Station. They have been charged with disorderly conduct in a public place and may face expulsion from university. The seven are: Pride Mukona, Tryvinne Musokeri, Cozerte Chiringa, Tinashe Chisaira, Tinashe Muchikasa, Joram Chikwadze and Frank Mufambi.
Indefinite postponement of bail ruling for 29 MDC activists
Yesterday (22 March) High Court Judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu postponed indefinitely the bail ruling for 29 MDC activists members in remand prison facing dubious charges of murdering a police officer in Harare last May. The case has all the hallmarks of political persecution through prosecution and points to political meddling in the judiciary.
Zanu PF Provincial Governor Banned 29 NGOs
At a time when projections are that Zimbabwe will experience a drought and acute food shortages this year, a Zanu PF governor for Masvingo province last month banned 29 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from operating in the province, including those involved in food aid. In light of Zanu PF's unreasonable push for early elections, operations of NGOs are being severely restricted through such illegal bans and through sustained harassment and persecution of civil society leaders and activists. With food and other donations from allies, notably China, Zanu PF hopes to have a monopoly over food distribution in this drought year in a way that it vainly hopes will gain it votes.
Zanu PF leader Spews Out Disgusting Hate Speech
While addressing mourners at a funeral, former Zanu PF legislator, Tendai Savanhu last week declared, "I would eliminate whites in Marondera within a week, especially MDC-T Member of Parliament Iain Kay," adding that whites had no role to play in Zimbabwe. Savanhu is closely associated with the Zanu PF-aligned vigilante group - Chipangano - a group that has unleashed terror in Harare with impunity.
Our recommendations to South Africa, SADC and the wider international community
- Guarantee the protection of free operating political space for civil society and rights activists in Zimbabwe and push for an immediate end to political persecution through prosecution and the use of hate speech.
- Press for the restoration of the rule of law and the establishment and nurturing of strong democratic institutions that are independent, non-partisan and professional, especially the judiciary, the police and other arms of the security sector.
- Press for the establishment of an independent and non-partisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission where military and state intelligence agents play no role and an updated and accurate voters' roll.
- Ensure long term monitoring and observation of Zimbabwe elections by both domestic and international observers to minimize violence.
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