The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ) condemn the abuse of the legal system to silence dissent and suffocate the civic space in Zimbabwe following the imprisonment of frontline democracy activist Makomborero Haruziviishe. Haruziviishe who was convicted last week on politically motivated charges of inciting public violence and resisting arrest was today April 6, 2021, sentenced to an effective 14 months in prison by Harare magistrate, Judith Taruvinga. He joins the list of other political prisoners and detainees in Zimbabwe, which includes but is not limited to Cecilia Chimbiri, Joana Mamombe, who have been in pre-trial detention since beginning March 2021 as well as Tinashe Bwanaisa, Rakeshi Marufu, Collin Paison, Tatenda Mafunde, Farai Chidziva and Trust Nyamado who are serving five-year jail terms for allegedly participating in January 2019 protests.
Recently, there has been an uptick of harassment and arrests targeted at human rights defenders, democracy activists and legitimate political opponents. Hopewell Chin’ono, Job Sikhala, Fadzai Mahere, Tapiwa Chiriga, Alan Moyo, Jacob Mafume and Takudzwa Ngadziore just to name a few, are some of the cases that we have seen the weaponization of law as an instrument to target and silence human rights defenders and democracy activists. We remain deeply concerned over the continued arbitrary arrests and incarceration of civic society and opposition activists in Zimbabwe.
This recent surge in arrests has been enabled by an oppressive legislative framework deployed by the Zimbabwean authorities against individuals who express opinions on any national issue; this framework includes repressive laws that do not comply with the Zimbabwean Constitution and international human rights laws, such as the Patriotic Bill which the authorities want to pass as law.
The Zimbabwean Constitution under section 67 (2) (d) guarantees the right to participate individually or collectively or in any other manner in peaceful activities to influence or challenge the policies of Government. Participation in peaceful protests should not at any point be interpreted as inciting public violence. Zimbabwe is a part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), which prohibit the treatment to which Haruziviishe and other democracy activists are being subjected to. Article 19 of ICCPR also states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference.
We, therefore, urge the authorities in Zimbabwe to respect and uphold the citizens’ fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. We request immediate protection for Haruziviishe and other political prisoners, without exposing them to the COVID-19 and cruel, humiliating procedures that amount to physical and psychological abuse. The ultimate request is Haruziviishe’s release, along with that of all other political detainees in Zimbabwe imprisoned for expressing their opinions.