Amnesty International warns of deadly elections; says Zanu PF will crackdown on opponents

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By Staff Reporter

AMNESTY International (AI) has described the arrest of 26 Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists as a chilling warning of a deadly election ahead, saying the Zimbabwean government will not hesitate to go after anyone who opposes them.

Zimbabwe is expecting to hold its harmonised elections in a few months.

AI said the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government has already proven that it will not hesitate to go after anyone who opposes the ruling party through events currently unfolding.

The activists were arrested Saturday for violating the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) after they held an internal party meeting at CCC legislator, Costa Machingauta’s house in Budiriro.

Among the 25 were three senior citizens aged 83, 72 and 61, a minor girl (17) and another member of parliament, Amos Chibaya.

The minor girl was granted free bail and the other 25 are yet to be freed.

In a statement Tuesday, AI’s deputy director for East and Southern Africa, Flavia Mwangovya, said the arrest was against the rights to freedom of expression.

“The arrest of members of a political opposition party simply for holding a meeting at a private residence is a shameless assault by Zimbabwean authorities against the rights to privacy, to liberty and security of persons and to freedom of expression.

“Their chilling message is unmistakable. It is clear that Zimbabwe authorities will go after anyone who dares oppose them in the upcoming elections,” Mwangovya said.

Mwangovya also called for the immediate release of the 25 and charges against them dropped.

“These 25 individuals must be released immediately and all charges against them must be dropped. Zimbabwe authorities must respect the right to freedom of assembly in the run-up to the election.

“It is also disgraceful that the police tried to deny these 25 individuals their human right to have access to counsel by physically assaulting their lawyer as he tried to confer with his clients,” Mwangovya added.

Meanwhile, lawyer Kadzere Kudzai, who was initially sent to represent the CCC activists after their arrest, was brutally assaulted by police officers while attending to his clients and was later on arrested and charged with criminal nuisance and allegedly trying to escape from police custody.