HUMAN rights and other civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on Sadc, African Union and the international community to rein in the Zimbabwean government as tensions rise over alleged abductions ahead of the MDC-organised demonstration today.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
In a joint statement by heads of CSOs in Zimbabwe, read by Jestina Mukoko, the State was accused of hunting down dissenting voices.
“We note with regret that six people so far were abducted by suspected State agents in the evening of August 13 and 14, and they have been severely tortured and left for dead. One of the victims had a harmful caustic liquid poured on his body. During the torture, the men accused the victims of being involved in organising the August 16 demonstrations,” Mukoko said.
The CSOs said the government was violating its own Constitution and other international and regional conventions that speak against torture.
“Zimbabwe is a member-State of the African Union and is, therefore, bound by the provisions of the Africa charter. Section 52 of the Constitution also guarantees the right to personal security from violence emanating from public and private sources. These actions by the suspected State agents are barbaric and must be condemned,” Mukoko said.
The CSOs have since sent an SOS to regional leaders, saying if left unchecked, the situation in Zimbabwe could deteriorate, with the country sinking into an abyss of human rights violations.
“We call upon the Sadc, the African Union, the United Nations and international community to condemn the unwarranted crackdown on civilians by the State. The government of Zimbabwe has an obligation to respect human rights. The developments so far point to a real risk that the people of Zimbabwe’s fundamental freedoms are once again in danger, and this must be stopped before it gets out of control,” Mukoko said.
The groups alleged that statements made by senior government officials, including Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda, could have triggered the abductions and torture of human rights and opposition activists.
“We denounce and condemn statements by senior government officials, in particular statements by Defence deputy minister (Victor) Matemadanda which are a celebration of and incitement to the killing of civilians exercising their democratic right.”
Already, the United States has condemned the attacks and abductions, with its ambassador Brian Nichols visiting Tatenda Mombeyarara, who is currently nursing serious injuries sustained following the alleged torture.
“The US government is concerned about renewed reports of abductions and assault of civil society members and opposition party members. Harassment and intimidation have no place in a democratic society,” the US said in a statement.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa assured churches in Zimbabwe that his government would not interfere with the MDC demonstrations as long as they remained peaceful.
The police have since distanced the State from the abductions, saying they were currently investigating all cases of reported abductions.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana laid blame on a third force “of trained, discharged and disgruntled former members of the old establishment” for the chaos.
“Since the emergence of the New Dispensation, there has always been a force comprised of discharged and disgruntled former members of the old establishment, of whom some are trained,” Mangwana claimed.
“This is a third force that we have reasonable grounds to believe to be in existence. Its hand in the incidences of the alleged violation of human rights, where established, cannot be discounted.”