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GERALDINE Dadirai SHARARA - Human Rights Activist

There is no easy walk to freedom in life and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain top of our desires. The news of the arrest and torture of the 45 political and civil society activists in Zimbabwe last month for the mediocre charge of treason has shocked many.

Munyaradzi Gwisai held a meeting in Harare on the 19th of February where people proceeded to watch video footage of the Egypt and Tunisia uprisings. The discussion was to be what lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe from these protests.

This meeting however was infiltrated by the Secret Security Service who placed an undercover officer in the meeting; their excuse for doing this was that the political meeting was not sanctioned. These 34 men and 11 women have been charged with attempting to circumvent a sitting government through unconstitutional means and are now facing a treason charge which is a capital offence in Zimbabwe that can carry a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.

Whatever happened to the freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly in Zimbabwe which are all basic human rights, these rights allow people to express themselves without fear of suppression. Freedom of expression is essential in enabling democracy to work and is most of all important for individual dignity. People have the right to form groups, to organise and assemble together with the aim of addressing issues of common concern.

Treason is such a harsh charge for just watching a video. I never knew it was illegal to just watch a video then maybe every Zimbabwean should be arrested for watching a video in their homes. I think the recent uprisings in North Africa have made our dear President Mugabe paranoid because he has realised that it only takes a spark like the famous song to get the fire going to inspire Zimbabweans to rise up.

This treason charge is another attempt by President Mugabe to deter people but all it does is show the world how desperate this man has become to cling to power, a man who has rigged many elections and has instituted repressive laws to tighten his grip on power. Thirty-nine of the 45 activists have been freed but the six remaining will face trial because they organised and spoke at the meeting.

President Mugabe this past week launched an anti-sanctions campaign to petition against sanctions where he vowed to seize British and American companies in Zimbabwe unless they publicly denounced sanctions imposed by their countries. It seems only one section of the population in Zimbabwe is allowed the right to express its views publicly while others seeking the rights to assemble, petition and demonstrate are arrested and tortured.

Munyaradzi Gwisai Incarcerated

In another different case that highlights the lack of freedom in Zimbabwe is a man who was arrested in Bulawayo for subverting a constitutional government in a comment he posted on HIS facebook page. For the rest of the Zimbabweans it seems sleeping is the only time to feel real freedom because there are no rules in dreaming even though you tend to sleep with one eye open just in case someone knocks on your door for no particular reason.

In Zimbabwe it rains on the Just and the Unjust alike, but the Unjust have the Just umbrellas. It seems the Uprisings in North Africa have left all the dictators around the world feeling nervous. “Each time a man stands for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” (Robert Kennedy)

I hope that the remaining six activists are freed and not charged over such a poor claim of treason, but I somehow fear that it will not happen. Mugabe needs them to make an example and trumped up treason charges are a good way of frightening people merely because of the consequences.

As a footnote I would like to ask President Mugabe to reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote – “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  :BY GERALDINE DADIRAI SHARARA