Friday, March 5, 2010

Civil society warns of worsening rights abuse

By Alex Bell
04 March 2010

Civil society organisations have warned of worsening human rights abuse at the hands of state security agents, explaining that in the last three months there has been an escalation in the number of threats, intimidation and harassment against its members.

The warning was made during a press conference in Harare on Wednesday, convened by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). ZimRights director, Okay Machisa told the conference how he and other members of the ZimRights board last week received a series of threatening text messages and phone calls, warning them against conducting constitutional outreach programmes.

Machisa received a threatening email two weeks ago from a person claiming to be Dzapasi Mumunda. The message said, “You enjoy flying in and out of the country demonizing your country, why don’t you go and stay there? They monitor, soon you will all stay out.” In the email, he was also warned that people in his office have been tasked with ‘bringing him down’ and he should be careful, especially at home.

The threats have not been against ZimRights only. Trade unionist and Secretary General of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), Gertrude Hambira was forced into hiding last week due to fears for her safety. The entire union leadership went underground after increased threats and harassment by officials from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), and a number of police raids on the union’s offices in Harare. The raids have been in response to the release of a shock report and documentary last year, exposing the violent abuse of workers on farms seized by the Robert Mugabe regime.

Meanwhile in Bindura, some facilitators belonging to the Civic Education Trust (Civnet), Taurai Chigunwe, Tinashe Madzimbamuto and Faustino Mukakati, were arrested last week for allegedly holding a public meeting. Last month a ZANU PF councillor for Nhekiwa ward in Uzumba, together with a group of some ZANU PF youths, disrupted an outreach meeting convened by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, claiming that it had not been sanctioned by their political party. The councilor and the youths also intimidated, harassed and threatened the Coalition’s youth committee members Tichaona Masiyambiri and Oscar Dhliwayo and an intern, Edwin Sithole, who had organised the outreach programme.

ZimRights and the ZLHR also explained in a joint statement that police in Mutare on Tuesday arrested and detained three Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) employees, who were attending the labour union’s Regional Women’s Advisory Council’s civil and legal training in the eastern border city for five hours.

“Security agents should strictly observe the principles of the Rule of Law and should adhere to the laws and regulations governing their operations,” the two groups said in a statement. “ZLHR and ZimRights calls upon the responsible authorities, including the Ministry of Defence, to penalise these elements without fear or favour.”

Human rights group Amnesty International has also expressed its concerns about worsening human rights abuses, despite the formation of the unity government more than a year ago. Amnesty’s Zimbabwe researcher, Simeon Mawanza, told SW Radio Africa that there was concern that the government has not made any meaningful reforms to rectify human rights abuse.

“By delaying reform, the situation in Zimbabwe remains fragile as perpetrators continue to escape justice and are instead effectively given the all clear to continue violating human rights,” Mawanza said.

SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe

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