Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Youth Leader Calls for Urgent Assistance for Zimbabwe

25 June 2008

Zimbabwe's run-off presidential election should be postponed, according to a young leader of the country's Student Christian Movement, who is in Switzerland to request the churches support for addressing the humanitarian crisis in the South African country. Prosper Munatsi, the General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe, had hoped to visit Geneva last week to offer his testimony about the unfolding political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe at the UN Human Rights Council. Instead he was jailed before his departure from Zimbabwe after the Harare Ecumenical Centre, where several Christian groups have their offices, was raided by Zimbabwe police and security forces on 9 June. His prison experience and first-hand knowledge of the situation in Zimbabwe is causing him to call for the elections to be postponed and for some form of international intervention. Although he had been imprisoned for a longer period before, his 24-hour stay in jail last week "was terrifying", says Munatsi. In addition to the intimidation and reports about people being killed while in detention, the place was not "suitable for human habitation", he says. There was no water, electricity or blankets and detainees had to sleep "on the cold floor" in the middle of winter. Munatsi's depiction of the Harare prison where he and several other members of Christian organizations were detained resembles a snapshot of the country's situation. "The violence is really out of hand", says Munatsi. If before it affected mainly rural areas, now it has spread "all over the country". The lack of food is "really critical", with half the population, including close to 2 million children "facing starvation". To request support from ecumenical organizations and churches is one of the main purposes of Munatsi's short visit to Geneva. The humanitarian crisis asks for the churches' urgent intervention. In addition to the food problem, close to 40,000 people have been displaced and they lack everything, including access to health care facilities. Local churches are doing their best, but have run out of resources. "The extension of the crisis is such that they can no longer help, house, feed people." Mugabe cannot kill all the Zimbabweans The churches efforts are not limited to humanitarian aid. They have also tried everything in their power to achieve a non-violent, democratic and peaceful solution to the crisis, says Munatsi. "They are very much willing to observe the election", but the government of President Robert Mugabe maintains that "churches should limit themselves to the pulpit", he explains. By not allowing them to appoint electoral observers, "the churches' democratic rights have been denied". Are Zimbabweans disappointed with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the upcoming election, somewhat preventing them to exercise their right to vote? "No, we are not", says Munatsi. "It was the right thing to do, because it valued the lives of Zimbabwean people first, before any political ambition." Right now, the election observers sent by the international community "are observing the killings", points out Munatsi. Under the current conditions, the election "must be postponed" and the "international community must intervene to stop the violence". He thinks that "peace monitors" should be deployed and mechanisms put in place "to create an environment conducive to free and fair elections". Having been imprisoned twice in the last two months, Munatsi is traveling back home to occupy his place as leader of an ecumenical organization of young Christians which cannot keep a register of its approximately 3,000 members for fear of political repression. Waiting for him in Harare are offices where the furniture has disappeared, materials have been confiscated and computers stolen, leaving the organization's staff with neither place nor means to work. But Munatsi is not afraid of going back. "Mugabe cannot kill the whole of Zimbabweans", he says. "We need to be brave enough and work for the people" so they can live free and "enjoy their Godly given rights". Juan Michel/WCC Media

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World ecumenical bodies request international community to scale up efforts in Zimbabwe

24 June 2008

Two international ecumenical bodies called on the UN, the South African Development Community and the African Union "to increase [their] efforts to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe". Emergency aid, postponement of the run-off election and the responsibility of the international community to intervene in protection of the people are amongst the main concerns. In a joint letter issued in Geneva today, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) requested the three international bodies to pay "urgent attention to the humanitarian needs of the people of Zimbabwe, their freedom to exercise religion, the destabilization of the political situation and the need to end human rights abuses". The joint letter refers to the need of "international intervention" in order to distribute food aid, as Zimbabweans face "the imminent threat of starvation in some areas". It also mentions the need for a political solution that "may involve a postponement of the election", as well as the importance of bringing perpetrators of violence to trial. "There can be no impunity", the letter says. "We have learned from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters that some churches have been kept from offering worship while other church services have been violently dispersed. This situation, which is underreported in the media, is unacceptable and must receive urgent attention from the world community", states the letter signed by WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia and WSCF General Secretary Michael Wallace. The letter makes a point of reminding that "in extreme situations" the international community "has the duty […] to intervene in the internal affairs of a state in the interests and safety of the people", a principle known as "responsibility to protect". The full text of the joint WCC-WSCF letter follows below.

H.E. Ban Ki-moonSecretary GeneralUnited Nations
H.E. Levy Mwanawasa Chair, SADC,
H.E. Jakaya Kikwete Chair, African Union

Geneva, 24 June 2008

A Joint Letter from the World Council of Churches and the World Student Christian Federation


We welcome the statement of 23 June by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the preliminary action taken by the UN Security Council on Zimbabwe; we also welcome the statement of 23 June by the Chair of SADC, H.E. Levy Mwanawasa. It is now with profound concern that we call on you to increase your efforts to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. As church leaders representing more than 550 million Christians around the world, including members of many churches in Zimbabwe, we request that you direct urgent attention to the humanitarian needs of the people of Zimbabwe, their freedom to exercise religion, the destabilization of the political situation and the need to end human rights abuses. Reports from those in and outside Zimbabwe persuade us that international intervention is now needed to distribute much-needed food aid. The government’s decision to end food distribution by international agencies has led only to political isolation and increased suffering.Food and medicine are in particular demand, with the imminent threat of starvation in some areas. Education has also been disrupted, with some schools now housing government troops. We have learned from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters that some churches have been kept from offering worship while other church services have been violently dispersed. This situation, which is underreported in the media, is unacceptable and must receive urgent attention from the world community. The much more publicized disintegration of the political situation can no longer be overlooked by the world. We are concerned that Zimbabweans have been denied the right to choose their own leader in a free and fair election. The sovereignty of the people has been violated and must be restored. The party that has created this violent situation on the ground now seems poised to be awarded the presidency, and with it the power to appoint additional senators who will sway the balance of parliament. Such a manipulation of the election process can have no legitimacy in the eyes of Zimbabweans or of the world. This precedent must not be set as the norm. Charges have been made that serious crimes are being committed. These allegations must be investigated; if found to be substantial, alleged perpetrators must stand trial. The current election cycle has been reduced to a shambles. If the perpetrators of violence are not brought to account, attempts at a political solution will be fundamentally undermined. There can be no impunity. The international community must insist on a political solution to the question of leadership in Zimbabwe. This may involve a postponement of the election, giving the time for the establishment of control mechanisms based on internationally accepted standards that would guarantee the unhindered expression of will of the people of Zimbabwe through truly free and fair elections. It is essential that the international community reaffirm the integrity of democratic elections as the means by which Zimbabwean citizens choose their leaders. National governments clearly have the primary and sovereign responsibility to provide for the safety and well-being of their people. However, when there is egregious failure to carry out that responsibility, whether by neglect, lack of capacity, or direct assaults on the population, the international community has the duty to assist peoples and states, and in extreme situations, to intervene in the internal affairs of a state in the interests and safety of the people. When the State can no longer provide protection to its own people, the principle of non-intervention (art. 2.7 of the UN Charter) yields to the responsibility of the international community to protect them. This is the responsibility to protect (R2P). At one time, Zimbabwe stood as the breadbasket of Africa. Its strengthening economy and growing freedoms served as a beacon of hope to all Africans who pursued the promise of a new Africa. Today Zimbabwe represents only suffering and hardship. The people of Zimbabwe deserve better, and we as church leaders pray that the deep faith and perseverance of a proud people will once again emerge and be put in the service of rebuilding this society that is so tragically ravaged by distrust, dissension and violence. The biblical prophet Amos proclaimed the coming of a day when “justice” would “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Our prayer is for the speedy arrival of that day in Zimbabwe, and our hope is that the international community will accept this prophecy as a vision and a goal.

In peace,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia General Secretary World Council of Churches
Rev. Michael WallaceGeneral Secretary World Student Christian Federation

CC: H.E. President Thabo Mbeki, Republic of South AfricaRev.
Dr Mvume Dandala, General Secretary, All Africa Conference of Churches
Mr Eddie Makue, Chair, FOCCISA

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

UN Advocacy

Ecumenical organisations highlight Zimbabwe crisis at Geneva UN

17 June 2008

The World Student Christian Federation, World YWCA, Girl Child Network and the World Alliance of YMCAs has held a parallel event at the 8th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the role of women and young people as Zimbabwe faces a crucial presidential election run-off. Speakers from the contributing organisations shared their perspectives on the critical economic, political and social factors that are contributing to the increasing violence, fear and instability being experienced in the country at present.Moderated by World YWCA's Deputy General Secretary Natalie Fisher, a panel of speakers from each of the four organisations shared their experiences and insights on the crisis Zimbabweans are facing today, followed by a discussion opened up to the audience.A representative of YWCA of Zimbabwe shared her observations on the role of women in monitoring the March 29th general elections and her expectations for the turn out for the upcoming presidential run-off. As a rural woman who trained and served as an observer in the March presidential elections, she was able to contribute first-hand knowledge of how difficult it will be for women to get involved in the run-off, since many are too fearful for their safety to come out and vote. She concluded by emphasising the need for peace-building programmes for Zimbabwe's future.WSCF Southern Africa Human Rights Officer and Zimbabwean lawyer, Mr. Marlon Zakeyo, spoke on the panel in place of WSCF's intended speaker Mr. Prosper Munatsi, General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Zimbabwe. Mr. Munatsi had been prevented from attending the event due to his detention and imprisonment in Harare earlier this week, following a heavily armed police raid on the SCM Zimbabwe national office immediately prior to his scheduled departure for Geneva.Speaking from his up to the minute contact with SCM Zimbabwe, Marlon Zakeyo spoke on the horrific upsurge in state violence that has appeared over the past week and emphasised the urgent need for international solidarity and action to help stop attacks on student leaders and civil society groups across Zimbabwe. Marlon referred to Zimbabwe as a country "on the brink of disaster" due to the "systematic and widespread violence" taking place. He pointed out the sad fact that in the run up to the March 29 elections most Zimbabweans were able to wear any party regalia of their choice and freely campaign for opposition candidates, but this has now made it very easy for the police, soldiers and militia forces to identify and target those they suspect to be sympathetic to the opposition.With the assistance of text messaging contact, Mr. Zakeyo has been able to receive up to the minute updates on Zimbabwean friends during the real time stages of arrests, imprisonment, harassment of lawyers and receipt of police threats. This has allowed him to contact the Rapid Response Unit of Zimbabwean human rights lawyers and the International Commission of Jurists to inform them of the situation as it happened and therefore help secure the release of illegally detained civil society actors and lawyers. Mr. Zakeyo added a serious concern about the economic context in Zimbabwe, which is putting such intense pressure on young people that some are changing from victims to perpetuators and have begun to engage in violence and state-sponsored intimidation, in order to receive payouts. According to Marlon the economic crisis has also led to an increase in general disorder with subsequent rises in theft and rape and at the same time adding factors such as the widespread disruption of education, leaving students without hope or productive activity.The Zimbabwean woman from the Girl Child Network who spoke has chosen to remain anonymous alongside her compatriot from YWCA. She focused her presentation on the fact that young girls and women are bearing the brunt of increased violence in Zimbabwe and noted that the Girl Child Network is working on the ground to try and protect young girls from abusive and violent situations. She emphasised that because of suspension of humanitarian aid from abroad, hunger is on the increase. She focused on the reality that hunger forces more desperately poor young women to enter into prostitution, which in turn increases the risk of HIV AIDS among the population.Mr. Michael Wardlow from YMCA spoke on the Zimbabwe situation drawing on his experience working in violent scenarios in Northern Ireland. He spoke on the requisite environment for reconciliation, arguing that while there is a monopoly on information, people have no challenge to their stereotypes of enemies. He said that positive interaction between people from both sides of the conflict will be essential, in order to achieve the reconciliation necessary for the rebuilding of a strong and prosperous post-crisis country. Tomorrow at the WSCF-YWCA organised Zimbabwe weekly focus meeting at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, human rights defenders from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights will make presentations on Zimbabwean issues to resource the ecumenical movement on further appropriate actions to take in support of Zimbabweans in the current crisis.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Student Leaders Cleared

Zimbabwean SCMers cleared amidst escalating attacks on civil society
14 June 2008

WSCF is pleased to report that all five Zimbabwean SCMers detained following the armed police raid and subsequent arrests on SCM Zimbabwe headquarters last Monday, have been released and cleared of charges. At the same time, WSCF notes with increasing concern that the SCMers have returned to their homes in the context of escalating attacks on civil society, which through the past week that have seen numerous acts of violence, intimidation, destruction of property and illegal arrests directed towards civil society organisations across the country. SCM Zimbabwe Vice Chairperson, Langelihle Manyani has told WSCF she and her colleagues are now living in fear as state agents in unmarked vehicles continue to follow and intimidate student leaders. Early this week SCMZ’s Gender Secretary Matsiliso Moyo and her baby were the first to be released from detention (on the evening of the raid) along with Gladys Mabuto, a senior staff member of the Christian Alliance. SCM’s Zimbabwe’s General Secretary Prosper Munatsi was released from the police cells at Harare Central Prison on the night of Tuesday June 11, along with SCM leaders Langelihle Manyani, Precious Chinanda and intern Sandra Dzvete and the three other detainees from the Christian Alliance and Ecumenical Support Services. Seven of the arrested Harare Ecumenical Centre staff had charges made against them under the Criminal Law Reform and Codification Act, claiming they had published falsehoods and distributed subversive information. According to defence lawyer and SCM member Jeremiah Bamu, the charges against the SCMers and other ecumenical workers have now been cleared after the Attorney General refused to prosecute. The Zimbabwean police have however refused to return property confisticated from SCM offices including, a minibus, two laptops, computer, 300 t-shirts and pamphlets. An urgent motion to have the property returned has been filed at the High Court in Harare.WSCF continues to be concerned at the increasing threat to democracy-supporting civil society in Zimbabwe, as it receives reports of widespread incidents of armed police raids, destruction of property, attacks and illegal arrests of leaders and members of civil society. According to the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), students and other stakeholders in civil society are being accused by the Mugabe regime of supporting the opposition. This accusation has led to the suspension of operating licenses of all Non-Governmental Organisations.The Federation has received reports of increased intimidation and violence against more than ten different national and local Zimbabwean civil society organisations situated in Harare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe, Bindura and Masvingo. The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), the National Association of Non Government Associations (NANGO) and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) have all released statements this week identifying members, leaders or officials who have come under attack from government forces and have been threatened, beaten, had property seized or destroyed or have been illegally detained by police. WSCF continues to work closely with the international ecumenical movement and at UN events in Geneva to develop new ways of providing tangible support to ecumenical and civil society groups and the people of Zimbabwe. This Wednesday at the WSCF-YWCA organised Zimbabwe weekly focus meeting at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, human rights defenders from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights are expected to make presentations on Zimbabwean issues to resource the ecumenical movement on further appropriate actions to take in support of Zimbabweans in the current crisis.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SCMZ Statement on Armed Raid

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


As part of the ongoing onslaught on civic society organisations in Zimbabwe, the Ecumenical Centre, a conglomeration of faith based democracy organisations which house the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ), the Ecumenical Support Services (ESS), the Christian Alliance (CA) and Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference (ZNPC) and PADARE Men’s Forum on Gender has been raided at around 1300hrs, Monday 09 June 2008 by heavily armed members of the police, central intelligence and military personnel. The Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe an affiliated member movement of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) based in Geneva Switzerland which stands for promoting justice and peace in Zimbabwe, has received with great shock the subsequent raid, arrest and detention of some of its employees and executive members. In the process police ransacked the SCMZ offices and confisticated, computers, laptops, digital cameras, and a mini bus. The movement sees this as a move to incapacitate the movement since it has been fully geared towards sensitising Christian students and youth on their rights and responsibilities in the face of a break or make Presidential runoff pencilled for the 27 of June 2008. Those arrested are, Mr. Prosper Munatsi (SCMZ General Secretary), Ms. Sandra Dzvete (office intern), Ms. Langelihle Manyani (Vice Chairperson), Ms. Matsiliso Moyo (Gender Secretary) and her seven month old baby and Ms. Precious Chinanda (Finance and Administration Officer). Other Ecumenical Centre personnel arrested were Pius Wakatama, Gladys Mabuto and Barbara Mapurisa of the Christian Alliance and Mr Brian Sarare of Ecumenical Support Services.SCMZ condemns such acts of intimidation directed to civil society players by the state security agents. SCMZ views the arrests and detentions as part of the broader campaign of intimidation orchestrated against defenceless citizens. The ZANU PF government is clearly displaying its degrees in violence. This is the time for the whole world to see and judge for itself the true characteristic of a government which has many times tried to convince the world that it is not only legitimate but democratic. The government has abdicated its duties by declaring war on its own people and creating an atmosphere of general insecurity among the populace. It is our sacred duty as civil society and opposition forces to continue fighting for the opening up of democratic space and justice in Zimbabwe. To members of the ecumenical family the time has come for us not only to speak but also to act against injustice, oppression and corruption according to the standard of the word of God.

Psalms 72:1-4 "May he judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people and the hills in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor!

Armed Police Raid SCM and Ecumenical Centre

SCM Zimbabwe & ecumenical headquarters raided by armed police
10 June 2008

The Harare headquarters of SCM Zimbabwe and several other ecumenical organisations were raided yesterday by armed police who seized communications equipment and a vehicle belonging to the SCMZ and arrested five members of the movement's national executive and office staff.One of the five arrested is the SCMZ General Secretary Mr. Prosper Munatsi, who was due to arrive in Geneva this morning. Prosper was to speak as a panellist at the upcoming WSCF-YWCA side event at the UN Human Rights Council on "The role of women and young people in building a culture of human rights in post-election situations" - focused on Zimbabwe and at this week's Ecumenical Centre meeting on Zimbabwe human rights issues which WCC General Secretary Sam Kobia is due to chair this Wednesday on behalf of WSCF. WSCF is currently in close contact with SCMZ and is endeavouring to use every means to provide legal protection and ensure the safety and speedy release of our arrested student leaders.

SCMZ Leaders Detained

Journalist Pius Wakatama detained
June 10, 2008
By Our Correspondent
HARARE - A group comprising of Military Intelligence, Support Unit and CID Officers raided the premises of the Ecumenical Centre in Harare.
The centre houses the Christian Alliance, Ecumenical Support Services, Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe, Padare Men’s Forum and the Zimbabwe National Pastor’s Conference.
When they departed from the premises in central Harare they led away 10 member of staff. Among them were veteran journalist Pius Wakatama of the Christian Alliance and Prosper Munatsi, general secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe. Also arrested were four women, one of them carrying a six-month old baby.
Marlon Zakeyo, a Zimbabwean lawyer working at the newly established Zimbabwe Human Rights Advocacy office in Geneva, said that he had received a text message around 3.00 pm from staff members in Harare who witnessed the arrests.
“The lawyer attending to this case, Jeremiah Bhamu of Muchadehama, Makoni and Partners was himself followed by unmarked vehicles on his way back to his office,” Zakeyo said. “For almost two hours Bhamu, Alec Muchadehama and two other lawyers were trapped by four unmarked vehicles and blocked from exiting and leaving for home.
“Our office with the help of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists then mobilised support that eventually secured the safe release of the lawyers. They are now in hiding.”
In August 2006 the police arrested Wakatama, Bishop Levee Kadenge, Reverend Ancelimo Magaya, and Reverend Brian Mungwindi, four leaders of the Christian Alliance, after a meeting of the Christian Alliance leadership. The group was released without charge after questioning about the activities of their organization and alleged plans to form a political party.
A hard-hitting political commentator, Wakatama was a regular columnist on The Daily News before its ban by government in 2003 and has written for other publications since then.
As of Monday night Wakatama and the rest were still detained in the Law and Order Section of Harare Central Police Station.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

South African Youths Rise Against Xenophobia

South African SCM leads youth in struggle against Xenophobia
8 June 2008

The Federation of South African Christian Students (FEDSACS) and the South African Council of Churches Youth Forum have released a comprehensive statement denouncing recent xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in the country. The statement denounces all forms of violence or other criminal activity against non-South Africans resident in the country and calls for an immediate halt to all violence and anti-social behaviour against immigrants. The statement then calls for genuine youth cooperation to deal with the root causes of poverty, hunger and unemployment that have created such high levels of dissatisfaction and frustration amongst South African young people.The South African Christian Youth statement will form part of a broader national press campaign by the South African Youth Network Against Xenophobia. The campaign will raise the voices of numerous South African youth organisations this coming week in opposition to xenophobic attacks and the underlying attitudes and motivations which have caused them.The full statement from the Federation of South African Christian Students (FEDSACS) and the South African Council of Churches Youth Forum follows below.