By Robert Tapfumaneyi
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of following the autocratic rule of the now late former President Robert Mugabe.
The accusations were made by an international human rights organisation, Front Line Defenders, which is calling on the State to drop charges against seven rights activists who are on trial facing treason charges.
The seven activists were arrested at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport upon returning to Zimbabwe from a capacity-building workshop in the Maldives in May last year.
However, the seven are denying the charges saying they were trumped-up.
According to Front Line Defender, the arrest and trial of the rights activists shows that there is a new wave of attacks targeting human rights defenders and civic society with Mnangagwa following Mugabe’s playbook of attacking innocent citizens.
“We have seen a new wave of attacks targeting human rights defenders and civic society in 2019 in Zimbabwe as the first post-Mugabe government seemingly is following its predecessor’s playbook, despite the real hopes of the population in the wake of Mugabe’s removal from power,” Andrew Anderson Front Line Defenders executive director said.
“The case of the #Zimbabwe7 is a major litmus test for the direction Zimbabwe will go in 2020 and beyond. We call on the authorities to quash the charges immediately.”
Anderson also accused State media and other news affiliates connected to Zanu PF of targeting human rights defenders.
“The State media and other outlets affiliated with the ruling party have targeted the HRDs with defamation and smear campaigns, which has published a series of video interviews with three HRDs from the #zimbabwe7 Stabile Dewa, Rita Nyamupinga and George Makoni which can be accessed here. www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/campaign/zimbabwe-7
The seven are; Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Mpahlo, Farirayi Gumbonzvanda, Sithabile Dewa, Nyamupinga and George Makoni. They are on a bail of ZWL $1 000 each and will are expected to appear in court in April.
If convicted they face up to 20 years in prison.