Zimbabwe has been experiencing elevated levels of violence seen the protests that rocked the country last week. Upon his arrival, the President issued a statement to the effect that violence and misconduct by security forces is unacceptable. He also added that an investigation into the violence will be conducted. Despite this statement, violence is still rife in communities. This report summarises the state of human rights, with a particular focus on areas that have experienced violence.
Around the Country
In Chiredzi, commuters resisted the $2 price hike and insisted that the $1 cost instructed by soldiers was the ideal price. Soldiers also went into ranks to enforce the new $1 price by intimidating commuter omnibus drivers. The climate however remained calm though some commuter omnibus drivers pulled out of the road.
In Gweru, It was reported that soldiers instructed commuter omnibus drivers to charge $1 per trip as opposed to $2. Throughout the day, military personnel conducted ad hoc check-ups on commuter omnibuses to ascertain if they were sticking to the stipulated charges. Commuter omnibus drivers who were not happy with the stipulated charges pulled out of the road leading to transport problems in areas such as Senga.
Reports received early morning from Bulawayo pointed to uniformed soldiers assaulting commuter omnibus drivers for charging $2 per individual instead of $1. The areas in which these reports where received from in Bulawayo are Nkulumane, Sekusile, Pumula and Nketa in Bulawayo. It was also reported that roadblocks manned by Soldiers and anti-riot police were setup on major roads leading to Bulawayo CBD.
Last night in Bulawayo's high density suburbs of Iminyela, Mabutweni and Pelandaba, armed police and army officers tortured and assaulted residence in post-protest retribution. According to reports, the violent crackdown started around 2300hrs when law enforcement agents targeted citizens who were in the streets. It was further reported that armed forces conducted door to door raids on selected households and assaulted male occupants.
Outside Chitungwiza VID, three (3) soldiers were seen assaulting an elderly gentleman this morning whilst reports from last night revealed that soldiers conducted door to door searches near Chinembiri Primary school. Citizens seen loitering the streets were threatened to retire to their homes.
State security agents continue to arrest suspected protestors nationally. Latest reports from ZLHR indicate that 646 detainees around the country have requested for legal assistance.
CSO leaders, human rights defenders and members of the public who were arbitrarily arrested during last week's protests are still in police custody nationwide. These include the president of ARTUZ, Obert Masaraure, who was arrested on 20 January and remanded in custody till 25 January. Reports indicate that Masaraure has not yet received medication despite the promise made in court to avail treatment for him. As the crackdown on trade union leaders continue, ZCTU Secretary General Japhet Moyo was remanded in custody until 28 January on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. This afternoon, Evan Mawarire's bail application at the High court was postponed to 25 January. As a result, Mawararire, who was arrested on 17 January, would have already spent 8 days in custody before he appears for the bail petition.
Worries of Command Justice at the Magistrates Courts
There are concerns from lawyers representing victims that there is a systematic denial of bail in the Magistrates Court. Lawyers have noted that the conduct of the magistrates across the country seems to be choreographed to deny bail to the accused persons or refuse to hear bail applications at all, fast track the trials without adequate preparation, and impose custodial sentences. If these allegations are true, the right to fair trial will be severely undermined at a grand scale. This is worsened by the horrific state of detention centres and prisons which cannot sustain the large numbers of people being detained.
Responses from the International Community
The international community through their embassies to Zimbabwe have reacted to the continued arbitrary arrest and detention of political activists, civil society and labour leaders. See the statement from the US Embassy here. The UK Embassy in Zimbabwe also reacted to reports of the arbitrary arrest of victims of the protests seeking medical assistance. The UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe also added that there is need for Zimbabwean authorities to assist in understanding the humanitarian needs in areas affected by violence.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum