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DHUMISANI KARAKADZAI

Mugabe and ZANU (PF) are still abusing human rights in Zimbabwe, will the Western countries ever intervene?  BY DHUMISANI KARAKADZAI – HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

There are reports of violence, intimidation, lack of media freedom, no respect for human rights and certainly no free and fair elections. Without true democratic reform, I fear Zimbabwe will stay on this doomed course for a long time to come.

The 29 March 2008 elections were the first ever pleasing elections in Zimbabwe. They covered the presidency, the Senate, the House of Assembly and local government councils. On the 27th of June of the same year, Zimbabwe saw its first ever presidential run- off. By 2008 Mugabe and Zanu PF was ready to maximize the use of all their dirty tricks which I will briefly outline and which are important for the electorate and observers.

When Mugabe and ZANU (PF) closed the daily news and 3 independent weekly newspapers in 2008 Zimbabweans found it hard to find trustworthy and believable news in the whole country. The main Daily and Sunday newspapers of the Zimbabwe Newspaper Group were used regularly in 2008 to spread hate messages against opposition enemies of the state (i.e. anyone who did not support ZANU PF). This dangerous practice represented an intolerable abuse of the publicly owned media. Voter education was not on the agenda. In fact, the public media in Zimbabwe did not merely fail to live up to this duty but they were used to misinform and confuse the public, especially during election campaigns.

Mugabe and ZANU (PF) control the media and all the governing bodies like Zimbabwe Election Support Network and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Leading up to the 2008 elections, no criticism of the government was tolerated but the other entire problems the government was facing i.e. inflation they would simply say they have been caused by the Western countries trying to gain control of the country again. ZANU (PF) used the media to their political advantage to criticize and harm the opposition parties.

Hundreds of Zimbabweans lost their lives before and after the elections because they were actually not ZANU (PF) supporters. From my research and sources the head of Zimbabwe Defence Force was quoted in 2008 saying ZANU (PF) will romp to victory and also calling fellow Zimbabweans and MDC supporters’ niggers and puppets.  If someone who holds such a high-ranking job is making comments like this then you know you are in trouble if you do not support Robert Mugabe and ZANU (PF).

Even the former finance minister was quoted saying it’s up to the Zimbabweans if they want peace they should vote for ZANU (PF), if you vote for MDC we will go to war. The military leaders clearly stated that they would not serve anyone who had not served in the liberation war referring to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Their intention was to intimidate and terrorize the public. Mobs of “war veterans” were unleashed. They carried out hundreds of murders and injured many more. The few arrests that were made were of MDC supporters who were accused of carrying out violent attacks on Zanu PF supporters and yet most of the victims of the violence were MDC supporters. Under such a climate it would be insane to think that “free and fair” elections are possible in Zimbabwe before true reforms are made.

In 2008 Mugabe and ZANU (PF) even used the government or state finance for their own election campaign by buying and distributing food in most of the rural areas in exchange for votes.  Traditional leaders were ordered to deliver the rural vote in exchange for vehicles, electrification of homes, and most critically, the privilege to allocate scarce and highly valued food aid, farm inputs and other equipment. If those community leaders blatantly refused (which they would not) their lives were under threat because the whole process would be overseen by the local Zanu PF mob.

Fast forward the whole thing to 2011 and still Mugabe and ZANU (PF) are still up to their dirty tricks nothing has changed at all. If only the Western countries can see how he is still abusing human rights as per usual.

The head of a civic organisation and more MDC members were arrested in March 2011, as the attacks on activists by police worsened. The director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, McDonald Lewanika, was arrested on Saturday. Police said the 300 blank t-shirts and stencils he was carrying were going to be used by young people at a music concert to print and wear anti-government messages. The concert was held at the Aquatic Complex in Chitungwiza and organised by a local organisation, Uhuru Vibes.

the partisan zimbabwean police in action

There was another attack on the MDC. The party reports that 30 police officers besieged its headquarters at Harvest House in Harare at night, and arrested three staff members. Desmond Ncube, the MDC youth assembly national coordinator, and two security officers, Trust Phiri and Hebert Murori, are still in custody and they have not been charged yet.

 MDC-T MP and Energy Minister Elton Mangoma was arrested on charges of criminal abuse of office, based on allegations that he awarded a contract to a South African company without going through the tender process. Mangoma has denied any wrongdoing and has pointed out that as Energy Minister he has powers in an emergency to acquire fuel for the country without going through the normal process. On the same day the MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo was sacked as Speaker of Parliament, after the Supreme Court ruled that his election was irregular.

Following Mangoma’s arrest, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced that the parties in the coalition government should have a clean divorce, saying elections were now the only way forward.

The many arrests have netted members of other political parties too. Three leaders of Mthwakazi Liberation Front were arrested over a week ago and formally charged with treason, which attracts the death penalty. Paul Siwela, John Gazi and Charles Thomas are being accused of distributing flyers urging people to stage anti-government revolts like in Egypt and Tunisia. They are accused of holding a meeting where they allegedly discussed overthrowing the government. They were remanded in custody until March 25.

Others still locked up include International Socialist Organisation coordinator, Munyaradzi Gwisai, and five activists who have also been charged with treason, after watching a video of the Egypt uprising. The six were denied bail despite local and global outrage at their arrest and severe torture while in prison. They were further remanded to March

In Bulawayo three men Mphumelelo Donga, Kevin Ncube and Gift Mlalazi, appeared in court on allegations of laughing at a cartoon of Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace and the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono. According to SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme, the men picked up the cartoons on a street in Bulawayo and were arrested for laughing at them. They were charged under the Criminal Law Codification Act and have been remanded out of custody. They will return to court on 30 March 2011.

Ncube has since been sentenced to 22 months in prison for another charge, which Saungweme says is believed to have been trumped-up as the complainant has written an affidavit confirming that Ncube is not at all connected with the case. “It would look like the state just wanted to punish him to prove a point that if you are found in possession of a note ridiculing the president, you will be arrested, whether you are innocent or not.” The cartoons are printed on fake bank notes.

Saungweme said the lawyer dealing with the case, Mr Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, has a number of cases in Plumtree involving the cartoon notes and told him that members of the CIO have approached him.

The police and CIOs are understood to be hunting the cartoon notes down. “The attitude and mood of the police regarding the cartoons is really serious. They are in a harsh mood,” Saungweme explained, “CIOs are really hunting for people in possession of this. They really want to know where they are coming from.” 

There is continuing abuse of law and human rights by Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) every single day and I wonder when the Western countries will intervene. Nothing has actually changed from 2008 I hope the Western countries can just arrest him, throw away the keys and let him rot in jail. Mugabe is too old to change   

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