By Staff Reporter
A LEADING human rights organisation, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, has raised strong concerns over the continuing rise in violations especially arbitrary arrests and torture mainly of opposition activists by law enforcement agents.
This is contained in the Forum’s latest situational report for the period 6 to 23 April 2021.
“The human rights terrain in the country continued to deteriorate with the arrest, conviction, and torture of dissenting voices, on seemingly frivolous charges being observed,” the reports noted.
“It is disheartening to note the forced removal of Harare West Member of Parliament Joanna Mamombe from Parktown Hospital where she had been receiving treatment after her health condition deteriorated at Chikurubi (Female) Prison.
“This was despite her doctor’s advice that she is gravely ill and needs specialist medical attention.”
Mamombe and MDC Alliance youth activist, Cecilia Chimbiri were arrested last month at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts facing charges of violating Covid-19 restrictions after they addressed journalists. They have been denied bail several times.
The Forum also raised concerns over the increase in the combative approach of police officers against civilians.
“Apart from this saddening illustration of the abuse of power by the state, law enforcement officers have continued to adopt an adversarial approach against civilians under the guise of enforcing Covid-19 regulations.
“Some of the reports also point to the increase in solicited bribes by law enforcement officers. In one of the incidences in Marondera, an individual who was caught without a face mask was asked to pay a US$10 fine although they were not given a corresponding receipt.”
Documented human rights violations by the Forum show that between 5 January and 23 April 2021, assaults and torture perpetrated by state security agents totaled 35 cases, arbitrary arrests (47), attacks against journalists (7), and extrajudicial killing (1).
“On 6 April, police officers arrested Vongai Tome at the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Courts in Harare after she raised an alarm that a police officer who was trying to disperse journalists had fondled her breast. Subsequently, police officers charged her with public nuisance and failure to adhere to Covid-19 social distancing regulations.
“During the same incident, Kudakwashe Butau, Ngonidzashe Mupfumba and Patrick Shumba were also arrested on allegations of public nuisance and assaulting a police officer.”
Assault and Torture
“On 15 April, Lengwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafarirakwa were arrested at the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Courts for allegedly participating in a demonstration. The duo who had come to the court in solidarity with Job Sikhala where arrested and detained at Harare Central Police Station.
Munyaradzi Mavhunga who allegedly had caustic acid poured on his face while in cells at the Harare Central Police Station
“The duo was subsequently tortured falanga and indiscriminate assaults. Law enforcement officers discharged a caustic substance on Mavhunga’s face which has since resulted in skin burns. They were denied bail and are hospitalised at Parirenyatwa Hospital.”
Attacks Against Journalists
Journalist Samuel Takawira was assaulted by police officers with baton sticks while filming a group of police officers who had been deployed at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts. The assault happened after the sentencing of MDC Alliance activist, Makomborero Haruzivishe. Takawira sustained injuries on his hands as a result of being struck by a truncheon by a police officer.
The Forum also raised alarm on the denial of bail for human rights defenders and other dissenting voices, a pattern which had now become common. It cited the latest denial of bail for Mamombe and Chimbiri last week with the two accused now spending nearly 50 days in remand prison.
The Forum also strongly condemned the planned deployment of Zimbabwe’s military personnel into neighbouring Mozambique.
“The supposed deployment of Zimbabwe troopers into Mozambique is an obvious matter for concern with the history of the disastrous effects of the DRC intervention on the economy. Excessive military spending will devastate the economy even further,” the Forum said.