The ongoing siege on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights activists that culminated in the crackdown on the Prime Minister Office and the subsequent arrest of human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa should be cause for alarm.
With elections looming in the country, the unrepentant Zanu PF side of the inclusive government is at it again — violating human rights with the aid of a partisan police force.
Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday while trying to defend staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office who were under siege by the police. But in a contemptuous attitude towards the judiciary, the police refused to release her after High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe ordered her immediate release.
This is not only a clear violation of human rights couched in blatant disregard for the rule of law, but indisputable disregard towards constitutionalism. We have a police force that operates outside the realms of the country’s Constitution, getting away with it in broad daylight.
With this kind of misbehaviour from the police force, we can safely foretell that even if the new constitution emanating from the referendum held last week is adopted, nothing will change.
Ironically, players in the inclusive government seem to be less concerned about this — to them it looks like constitutionalism has been relegated to a mere academic exercise.
But what boggles the mind more is the attitude of the international community that has erstwhile been among the harshest critics of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Our sister paper, the Zimbabwe Independent, yesterday reported that the British Embassy and those who call themselves “Friends of Zimbabwe” will meet in London next Tuesday to discuss aid as if nothing linked to human rights violations is taking part in Zimbabwe.
“All the major donors will be represented at the meeting which is basically part of the re-engagement process,” said British ambassador to Zimbabwe Deborah Bronnert.
“The EU (European Union) and all the major donor countries such as the UK, United States, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan and Switzerland, among others, will be represented,” said the envoy.
What we find worrisome is that in the first place the fallout between the international community and the Zimbabwean government was triggered by the latter’s violation of human rights. The current crackdown on the likes of Mtetwa and NGOs shows nothing has changed. Is the international community now being complicit in the violations of human rights?
For the inclusive government partners it looks like business as usual. We expect these blatant violations to act as alarm bells so that the international community and partners in the inclusive government react appropriately, not the current scenario where everyone seems content to turn a blind eye.