15 July 2013

Zimbabwe: Human Rights Activist Killed in Suspected Car Crash Plot

A human rights activist has died while another is in hospital, after the vehicle they were travelling in was sideswiped by two cars in a suspected assassination plot.

Activist Elliot Dhliwayo was on his way to Harare for a protest organised by the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR), when the incident happened.

Dhliwayo and another senior ROHR official are said to have been travelling from Chivhu, along the Harare-Masvingo highway, "when two vehicles took turns to sideswipe their car and did not stop when it crashed".

Dhliwayo later died from the injuries sustained in the crash and was buried in his rural home in Chivi, on Tuesday.

The other official, who cannot be named for security reasons, is still in hospital.

In a statement issued Sunday, ROHR (UK Chapter) President Ephraim Tapa said Dhliwayo's death was an assassination. He said the tragedy proved that the Mugabe regime will stop at nothing to suppress opposition ahead of the elections.

Dennis Benton, coordinator at lobby group the Zimbabwe Vigil Coalition (ZimVigil), said the two pressure groups were saddened by Dhliwayo's death.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa Monday, Benton said Dhliwayo's death was even more tragic as leaves behind a wife and three young children.

He added: "Rights activists are at greater risk from the security establishment in Zimbabwe as Mugabe tries to rig the next election to remain in power.

"There is no respect for the rule of law, and activists are living in fear. There has been a concerted clampdown on even rights lawyers such as Beatrice Mtetwa, and this is likely to get worse in the next two weeks leading up to polling day," he said.

The ROHR protest, which was postponed out of respect for the deceased, finally went ahead on July 12th when more than 100 activists petitioned the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for free and fair elections.

"The activists then proceeded to the Ministry of Home Affairs where they left a petition demanding an end to arbitrary arrests, harassment and torture of human rights defenders," Benton added.

The alleged assassination of the ROHR activist comes as the British government has reportedly stepped up its deportations of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers, a situation described by Benton as worrying.

"We are very worried. ZimVigil is meeting the (UK) Foreign & Commonwealth Office on Thursday, when we hope to bring to their attention the precarious situation in Zimbabwe."

Benton expressed concern that the British government seemed to be under the impression that the forthcoming poll will be free and fair, "presumably based on assurances from (South African) President Jacob Zuma.

"But we have little faith that regional bloc SADC, as the guarantor of the Zimbabwe Global Political Agreement, will honour its role.

"As ROHR and the Vigil if the elections are not deemed credible, we would want SADC to order Mugabe to hold fresh elections that are in line with the undertakings made in 2008 to ensure security sector reforms, a free and fair vote and access and open access to media," Benton said.

ROHR is an offshoot of the ZimVigil, which has held protests against rights abuses outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London every Saturday since 2002.

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