Zimbabwe: Chasing Shadows - May 2019 Monthly Monitoring Report

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Introduction

The Government of Zimbabwe has reverted to its systematic and coordinated Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights activists attack modus operandi; a path they always take when under pressure.

This was most evident when seven human rights defenders (HRDs) were arrested on various occasions at Robert Mugabe International Airport in the month of May.

George Makoni, 38, an Advocacy Officer for Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe; Tatenda Mombeyarara, 37, Co-ordinator for lobby group Citizens Manifesto; Gamuchirai Mukura, 31, Executive Director of Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD); Nyasha Mpahlo, 35; Farirai Gumbonzvanda a girls' rights activist and community volunteer with the Rozaria Memorial Trust; Sitabile Dewah of Women's Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence and Director of the Female Prisoners Support Trust Dr Rita Nyamupinga were picked up at the airport between May 20 to 27 on returning from a workshop in the Maldives. The workshop was hosted by the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies.

Government recently on different occasions accused CSOs of regime change endeavours through coordinated demonstrations throughout the country despite Section 59 of the Zimbabwean Constitution clearly providing for the right to demonstrate and petition. It is now apparent that these intimations were orchestrated to herald and justify the persecution of CSOs.

The activists' arrest is a clear sign of criminalisation of human rights activism, which flies in the face of democratic society ideals. Government's targeting of activists who attended a workshop whose scope is 'non-violence', is nothing short of chasing mirages and stifling clearly provided for rights. The continued deferment of bail ruling judgement and detention at Chikurubi Female and Maximum security prisons deprives the activists of their freedom and is a form of continued violation and victimisation. We implore the justice system to speedily follow due process so that these Human Rights Defenders are treated fairly.

Moreover, the concerted smear campaign perpetuated by the State through The Herald, The Chronicle and its surrogate tabloid The Patriot and online publication, Harare Post, is exposing machinations of the administration. For instance, inferences that ZPP, together with other CSOs have established an organisation meant to spearhead anti-government protests together with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are baseless and pregnant with falsehoods with the objective of unduly discredit the named organisations. This clearly exposes that the Mnangagwa administration will not stand down in allowing Zimbabweans' enjoyment of their rights and freedoms. Other organisations mentioned in the malicious article include, the Counselling Services Unit, the Research and Advocacy Unit, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the umbrella body the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to which all the organisations listed are members.

The targeting of CSOs also had The Patriot single out RAU and its Senior Researcher Anthony Reeler in an article 'Savanna Revolution - Zimbabweans Beware'. The dates on which Reeler is accused of having run a workshop in Johannesburg are the same dates that Reeler was working in the RAU office in Harare.

The recorded total number of violations declined from 171 to 157 from the previous month. In April the high number of violations were attributed to the demand for contribution to Independence Day celebrations. While taking note of numbers it is even more crucial to note that beyond the numbers there are other issues to be considered like uncertainty, volatility, growing fear and other issues taking place among citizens. The environment is worrying in many different way, particularly the crippling economy biting from all ends making it difficult for citizens to make ends meet.

In May, the major form of violation was harassment and intimidation related to food and other aid distribution. Zimbabwe received below average rainfall in the 2018/19 agricultural season and Cyclone Idai aggravated the situation, increasing the vulnerability of more households with regard to food security. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza recently highlighted that the situation is not only dire in rural areas, but that 40% of urban area households will also need food aid. Depreciating macro-economic conditions will further impoverish people and they will likely need this aid. Thus it is particularly worrying when aid is politicised, and deserving families are deprived at the expense of political comradeship.

Economic decline continued unabated with inflation at a 10 year high of over 75% (April Zimstats), fuel increased from RTGS $3.36 to RTGS $ 4.97 for petrol and RTGS $3.22 to RTGS $4.89 for diesel while the RTGS currently keeps shedding value (98% since February 2019) against the Unites States Dollar. Fuel costs further steepened transport costs from RTGS$1 to as much as RTGS $3-$5 for some routes such as Harare- Chitungwiza. This is a further thorn in the flesh that consumers have to contend with and government sought to address the matter by introducing Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) buses at a fare of 50c. This has resulted in a heightened demand for the buses, yet they fail to mitigate transport needs of the urban populace as the buses are only a few. This has been further exacerbated by the decision to allow the RTGS currency to float freely against the USD and the exchange rate be determined by market forces, with the hope that it matches and subsequently stifles the parallel market. All these factors are severely felt by the consumer as the little they earn is failing to sustain them.

Economic challenges have further heightened the sense of instability in the country. These economic challenges will further incense struggling citizens and likely lead to unrest.

Conversely, government has reacted by increasing the presence of the army and police in major cities, further heightening the possibility of a violent confrontation reminiscent of August 1, 2018 shooting of civilians and January 14-16, 2019.

Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project

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