Month: Aug 2019

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network Condemns the Abduction and Torture of Woman Human Rights Defender and Comedian Samantha Kureya

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) condemns in the strongest possible terms the abduction and torture of a woman human rights defender (WHRD) and comedian Samantha Kureya of Bustop TV in Harare and urges the government of Zimbabwe to carry out a swift, open and transparent investigation into such abduction with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.  The SAHRDN further urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to guarantee the safety of all HRDs in the wake of the increase in cases of abduction and torture of HRDs.

“The gender-based violence targeted against Ms Kureya through stripping her naked was designed to terrorise, shame and silence her as a woman HRD who dares to exercise her fundamental right to freedom of expression and raise pertinent human rights and governance issues in the public sphere”, said Roselyn Hanzi, board member of the SAHRDN and Executive Director at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. 

In the evening around 2200 hours on 21 August 2019, a group of  three unidentified masked gunmen forced entry into Bustop TV Comedian Samantha Kureya, popularly known as “Gonyeti” home in Mufakose. The unidentified group of men did not produce any warrant or give reasons for the raid. Having forced their way into her house, they assaulted Samantha’s family members and they proceeded to  abduct Samantha, who was not properly dressed forced her into one of their vehicles and drove away. She was taken away, to an isolated location. Thereat, the unidentified men who had doubled to a total of six men, forced her to  strip off her clothes and they assaulted her with sjamboks and butts of AK47 Rifles. She was also forced roll in mud imitating army training drills that her abductors said they had undertaken, they  also force to drink sewerage water.  Her abductors categorically stated that they were not happy with a skit she had produced calling on the eviction from private homes of state agents who were at the forefront of violating human rights. After her abductors abandoned Ms Kureya later walked alone and some hours after the abduction, Ms Kureya found her way to Crowbrough North, a suburb situated in Harare where she sought assistance. 

A police report of the abduction was filed with the Police at Marimba Police Station in Harare. Verified reports also show that unidentified armed men also invaded the home of another WHRD and Bustop TVComedian, Ms Sharon Chideu, popularly known as “Magi” in the early hours of 22 August 2019. Ms Chideu was not at home at the time.  

“We are extremely concerned that the attacks on these two WHRDs have become systematic and persistent in nature,” said Maria Lúcia da Silveira the Executive Director of Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD), Angola and board member of SAHRDN. “ It is therefore of serious concern to us that attacks against HRDs are not only carried out with impunity but that in some instances the legal system is abused to become an instrument to persecute HRDs” added Ms da Silveira.

In February 2019, Ms Kureya and Ms Chideu were arrested and fined $20 each after the Police concluded that a 2016 satirical skit amounted to public nuisance. In the skit, the pair wore police uniforms. During their arrest, the two comedians were warned to cease engaging in political skits.

The SAHRDN expresses its profound outrage and condemns in the strongest terms the abduction of Ms Kureya and the increasing attacks levelled against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Zimbabwe. The SAHRDN urges the government of Zimbabwe to order an immediate halt to the abduction of its citizens and to guarantee the safety of all Zimbabweans. The SAHRDN further urges the government of Zimbabwe to allow HRDs in the country to operate without fear of attack or abduction and to guarantee freedom of expression in the areas under their control. 

Finally, the SAHRDN appeals to the leadership of Zimbabwe to uphold commitments to protect and promote human rights according to the Constitution of Zimbabwe and Regional and International Treaties the country has ratified. 

           ***END OF STATEMENT***

For more information please contact SAHRDN Coordinator Simphiwe Sidu<ssidu@southernafricadefenders.africa>, or Clint Chimedza, Protection officer,<cchimedza@southernafricadefenders.africa> or any of the following members Angola: Lúcia Da Silveira <ltumelo@gmail.com>: DRC pierre tshibangu <malalatshibangu@yahoo.fr>: Lesotho: Lepeli Moeketsi <lepeliomi@gmail.com>: South Africa Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh <Kaajalr@salc.org.za>: Zimbabwe:  Roselyn Hanzi <rose.hanzi@gmail.com> 

Malawi: Investigate the Petrol Bombing of Timothy Mtambo’s House and Protect Human Rights Defenders.

The  Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) jointly with  the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network (AfricanDefenders) call on the Malawi authorities to immediately investigate the petrol bombing of Timothy Mtambo’s house in Lilongwe in the early hours of 15 August 2019 and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The SAHRDN and AfricanDefenders also further call on the authorities in Malawi to stop the attacks on both civic space and human rights defenders (HRDs).

On 15 August 2019 around 0230rhs unidentified men raided Timothy Mtambo’s house and attacked the property with petrol bombs. The attackers threw 3 petrol bombs, 2 bombs targeted the house where Timothy Mtambo was sleeping and 1 was thrown at the gate apparently to prevent Timothy Mtambo and his family from escaping the house on fire. Despite being outnumbered by the attackers, the security guards at Timothy Mtambo’s house managed to disrupt the attackers and scare them off. The attackers had set Timothy Mtambo’s house and a car on fire through the petrol bombs. Timothy Mtambo and his family of 4 children who were sleeping in the house at the time of the attack survived the attack with no injuries.

“We are deeply troubled by this unwarranted attack on Timothy Mtambo. We are aware that the attack is linked to his work as a human rights defender and being the Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)” said Arnold Tsunga Chairperson of the SAHRDN. “We expect the authorities to take prompt action to investigate the assault on Timothy and his family and to make the results of such investigation public,” added Tsunga. 

Following the holding of elections in a controversial way, civil society in Malawi lead by the HRDC and Timothy Mtambo have been protesting demanding accountable governance. The protests have attracted large numbers showing that 

a significant aount of the population of Malawi associate themselves with calls for accountable governance.

“The struggle by civil society lead by the HRDC for accountable governance is part of legitimate enjoyment of civil and political rights and needs to be protected under international law obligations that are binding on Malawi” stated Mr Hassan Shire the Chairperson of AfricanDefenders and Executive Director at DefendDefenders.

Malawi is a signatory to a number of international human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. These guarantee the right to enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms such as the rights to freedom of association, assembly and movement as well as the right to formulate opinions and express them.  These rights are also codified in the Constitution of Malawi. It is therefore important for Malawi to take action to protect civic space and HRDs as part of its commitment under international law. The SAHRDN and AfricanDefenders will continue monitoring the action of Malawi in resolving this petrol bomb attack on Timothy Mtambo.