24 January 2019

Zimbabwe: Media Briefing On the State of Affairs in Zimbabwe

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The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is deeply concerned over the government of Zimbabwe's response to the crisis bedeviling the country and we note with huge concern that the Zimbabwean government has declared war on its citizens.

Following countrywide protests against the increasing cost of living the government of Zimbabwe immediately deployed the army and the police whose heavy handedness left at least 12 citizens losing their lives while 78 cases of gunshot wounds were recorded.

Cases of torture in police cells have also been recorded while there have also been confirmed reports of the police unleashing dogs on detained citizens.

There has been a worrying trend on how the courts have been handling cases related to the protests that have been brought before the courts. The Law Society of Zimbabwe in their Rule of Law Situation letter dated 23 January 2018 highlighted the injustices being done to accused persons, range from Mass trials, fast tracked trials, routine denial of bail, routine dismissal of preliminary applications, refusal of access to medical treatment and trial and detention of juveniles.

Suffice to say, as part of the crackdown, the government ordered the telecommunication companies to shutdown the internet services provisions resulting millions of the population failing to access the internet for 3 days.

The internet has finally been resorted after a court challenge by the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

We however remain concerned that arrests, abductions and beatings are continuing despite president Mnangagwa's calls for dialogue.

It is in this light, that we as Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, remain skeptical about President Mnangagwa's call for a national dialogue.

It is our view therefore that the political processes in Zimbabwe must seek to promote and consolidate democracy, peace and human security and we also maintain that resolving the current political crisis in the country is a pre-requisite for democracy and economic development.

We maintain that the November 2017 military coup is an alien practice in a democratic society that has seen the confirmed killings of at least 19 citizens and is thus a threat to economic development within the region and globally.

Over the past 20 years, Zimbabwe has been facing a prolonged political and economic crisis and violations of human rights and the collapse of the economy have resulted in millions of citizens seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and abroad.

We fear that if the situation continues unchecked, there are greater chances of an escalation of social unrest and instability in Zimbabwe and a regional humanitarian crisis.

We therefore seek to highlight the following:

1. There is a perpetual economic meltdown (resulting from the current political crisis) which has resulted in high levels of inflation and an increase in domestic debt which has compromised the government's capacity for the provision of social services and social protection for ordinary citizens. The unrest within the civil service has also impacted negatively on ordinary citizens and has the potential of fuelling more conflicts in Zimbabwe.

2. Military involvement in civilian processes - The events of August 01, 2018 and 14 - 16 January 2019 in which the military shot 19 unarmed civilians in the full glare of both regional and international media is evidence of the above. The Monthlante Commission also put blame on the military for the 01 August 2018 shootings.

3. The media, particularly the state - controlled media continues to be partial while perpetuating divisions in society and brazenly attacking civil society, political parties and anyone with divergent views as plotting to subvert Zimbabwe's constitutional democracy.

4. At a time there is national outcry over the deteriorating economic situation in the country, there is an apparent attempt by the State to silence dissenting voices through arbitrary arrests, beatings, abductions and threatening civil society leaders and trade unionists.

5. Arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture and enforced disappearances and fast tracked trials and convictions. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have handled over 800 such cases and accused persons are not enjoying the right to fair trial as prescribed by the law.

6. Despite calls for a national dialogue by the president, false accusations and charges continue to be labelled against civil society leaders and labour. There is clear insincerity on calls to engage in a dialogue.

Way forward

Based on the above background, which should be understood in the context of the ongoing political and economic crisis bedevilling the country it is our convinction that the following is necessary for creating an environment that will allow for honest dialogue:

a. The immediate release of political prisoners who are facing trumped up charges and cases allowed to be conducted in line with the law to afford accused persons the right to fair trials. Zimbabwe must imediately return to the rule of law

b. The immediate removal of the military from conducting policing duties and immediate halt of the state sponsored violence on citizens

c. The state media must desist from fueling human rights abuses and further polarising society. Zimbabwe must immediately return to a peaceful environment that allows for honest and geneuine dialogue.

In dealing with the national crisis the following urgent interventions are compelling:

1. That the human rights violations stop forthwith, and soldiers should return to the barracks. The demilitarisation of civilian political processes and the restoration of normalcy by focusing on key political, economic and social reforms-restoring political legitimacy-justice and accountability for human rights abuses, and the release of all political prisoners who were arrested during stayaway- security sector reform and de-conflation of state- party-military industrial complex

2. That regional bodies in particular SADC and the AU support an guarantee an internal and inclusive stakeholders' dialogue in Zimbabwe. It is our conviction that the dialogue process must be genuine, inclusive with participation of all stakeholders and a national visioning process that has civil society, government, political parties, business, religious groups and labour unions among other critical stakeholders on board. We warn against a reductionist approach on the crisis in Zimbabwe, the national crisis goes beyond dialogue on the economy. Our view of a national dialogue process is predicated on the following:

The creation of a shared National Vision that will adavance the res-establishment of the Social Contract between the governed and those that govern. As civil society, our National Vision is aptly captured in the Zimbabwe People's Charter

Development and adoption of a common National Reforms Roadmap that addresses key steps and has timelines on political, economic and social governance reforms. Such reforms in our view should include but not limited to constitutional strengthening and improvements to broaden democratic space and practise, electoral reforms and an urgent programme on demilitarising civilian political processes.

A dialogue process that seeks to realise the national values and principles enshrined in the Constitution strongly tied to a nation building process.

3. That SADC and the AU promote and support efforts at arresting the economic downturn in Zimbabwe based on a clear reform roadmap and encourage Zimbabwe to adopt and implement pro-poor and inclusive economic policies. The government of Zimbabwe must also eliminate high level corruption by ending parochial elite economic accumulation. Therefore, efforts at economic transformation, stabilisation and growth should be aimed at achieving inclusive sustainable economic growth and development.

4. We encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold and guarantee citizens' rights as enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution and other regional and international human rights treaties and statutes. Full implementation of the country's constitution is equally important in promoting democracy in Zimbabwe. Re- introducing national interest as the basis for governing. That the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the fundamental

5. That Zimbabwe must immediately operationalise a comprehensive programme on national healing, reconciliation and nation building that will depolarise society and entrench respect for diversity, inclusion and tolerance in all facets of life

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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