PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is not committed to the upholding of citizens’ rights and does not deserve support from the international community, a pressure group has said.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In an open letter to the African Development Bank (AfDB), #Thisflag Citizens Movement highlighted deficiencies in the way Mugabe dealt with dissent and protests against his administration.
The letter was in response to reports that the continental finance institution had shown indications it was moving to bail out Zimbabwe in its quest to clear its arreas with international creditors.
The letter titled Concerns About the Human Rights Situation in Zimbabwe, poked holes into the AfDB’s claims that Zimbabwe was committed to human rights.
The group added that AfDB had shown glaring omissions including police brutality against citizens following protests in early July.
“On July 6, the majority of Zimbabweans effectively shut down the country by electing to stay at home in protest at the shocking manner in which the country is being managed. Two days before that, taxi drivers in the country had protested the ubiquitous roadblocks in the country during which the local police force routinely harassed them for bribes.
“This action saw 95 people being arrested simply for exercising their democratic right to disagree with the government,’ the letter said adding shocking footage of the police brutality had hit global headlines.
“The successful stay away was largely attributed to peaceful and non-partisan #ThisFlag Citizens Movement led by Evan Mawarire.”
Mawarire urged citizens to demand accountability, an end to corruption, an explanation on the disappearance of $15 billion in diamond revenues, a reversal of the ban on basic commodities, introduction of bond notes, civil servants salary delays and rampant police checkpoints.
According to the letter, “government’s response was to act in default mode, which is further arrests, beatings and threats”.
“In particular, President (Mugabe) himself on three occasions directly threatened the young cleric, saying he should move to another country if he was not happy with conditions at home.
“In his second message, he declared, ‘I am warning Mawarire and others, I want to warn them strongly; Zanu PF will not tolerate any nonsense . . . Once you begin to interfere with our politics, you are courting trouble. You are courting real trouble,” the letter added.
The arrest and continued detention of activist Linda Masarira was also highlighted in the damning letter.
“Independent newspaper publisher, Trevor Ncube who happens to be outspoken has had visits to his house by men in military attire who harassed his staff with inconsequential questions simply to send Ncube the message that government can reach him. Mawarire’s caretaker was assaulted by armed men who also took away his phone,” the pressure group said.
It accused government of “copy-pasting” a proposed Cyber Bill from militarised Lesotho “in order to arrest and prosecute anyone who uses social media to speak against government’s ills”.
“We, therefore, appeal to the AfDB to remember its global compact duty, to in the Zimbabwean case, marry stringent corporate governance demands (already sorely lacking) with equally stringent human rights observance,” the letter said, adding the AfDB should “do the right thing”.
“The Zimbabwean government continues to demonstrate its contempt for its citizens not only through the very public utterances of the head of state but also the proposed enactment of draconian unconstitutional laws that seek to muzzle the people.”
The letter was copied to rights bodies among them Amnesty International, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Transparency International-Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.