By: Brighton Manhanzva – Political Correspondent
Human rights organizations have reported that there is a widespread consensus of systematic violations of the right of personal freedom including assaults, torture, death threats, kidnappings, unlawful arrests and detentions in Zimbabwe, especially towards suspected members of the political opposition. These violations are being perpetrated by government supporters as well as law enforcement agencies.
One notable case is when Robert Mugabe condemned judges at Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court who asked him to comment on the illegal arrest and torture by state security services of two journalists, Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto.
In 1999, Mark Chavunduka, an editor at The Standard, and Ray Choto were arrested for contravening the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act that states that any person who makes, publishes or reproduces any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear, alarm or despondency among the public or any section of the public; or is likely to disturb the public peace; shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years unless he/she satisfies the court that before making, publishing or reproducing, as the case may be, the statement, rumour or report, he/she took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy thereof. The two were released after nearly 2 weeks in custody.
The most mind-boggling thing is that the law enforcement agencies are a major source of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe despite the fact that they are the ones that are supposed to be protecting us. There have been a growing number of cases where police have assaulted and tortured opposition supporters and civil society activists according to Human Rights Watch.
Subsequent arrests and beatings at police stations around the country, of trade union activists including the leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are also at their peak following peaceful protests and demonstrations. The protestors are initially denied medical and judicial assistance and many of these incidents include multiple victims.
The situation in Zimbabwe is continuing to deteriorate as public protest against Mugabe and the ZANU-PF increases especially at a time when elections are just round the corner as I write this article today. It never fails to amuse me that no one seems to see or understand that the violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe are systematic in the sense that they only start once the election date has been announced even though this has been going on since the early 80’s.
The government has continued to reiterate its mandate to eliminate any dissent or opposition to its policies “by any means necessary”, including lethal force. This statement has been backed up with random and indiscriminate acts of state-sponsored violence from various security forces on anyone perceived to be an opponent and these attacks often occur without provocation or warning.
After 28 years in office, with accusations of brutal suppression of civil liberties and human rights violations, Zanu PF has a mountain to climb and they are too reluctant to lose the control of power, with fears abounding that a free and fair election will most likely show them their way out.
A number of opponents have been detained and charged on trumped-up charges and this is not new to us. President Mugabe’s government is seen as autocratic and repressive by its critics and its human rights record is poor. The government has suppressed freedom of speech and assembly and many contend that food is inaccessible in opposition areas where food is also scarce.
Given the fact that elections are just round the corner, I expect more human rights abuses even though I am sure that somewhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it says that no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions, vote for whoever they want and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
Even though the Government is committing all these crimes, we must not be discouraged in our quest for fighting for our own freedom. Martin Luther King Jr once said that “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom”.
So there you go SONS OF THE SOIL, Aluta Continua…. Let’s get up and join hands to reclaim what belongs to us, our own freedom, on the 29th of March 2008. Do something, don’t just sit there, lets vote for CHANGE.