BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of clamping down on critics and closing the democratic space ahead of the 2023 elections where he is facing stiff challenge from Citizens Coalition of Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa.
Mnangagwa has in recent weeks vowed that “sell-outs” would not be allowed to rule Zimbabwe.
The ruling Zanu PF often accuses its critics of being sellouts and regime change agents sponsored by the West.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), a grouping of human rights organisations in the country, yesterday raised alarm over the arrests and urged Mnangagwa to stop targeting critics.
“Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition calls on Mnangagwa’s government to end the colonian era methods of using the law enforcement and justice systems to mutilate the constitution of Zimbabwe by arresting and prosecuting those who justifiably speak out against his misgovernance,” CiZC said in a statement.
“Only this week police arrested CiZC spokesperson Obert Masaraure who is also Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president and secretary general Robson Chere.
“Masaraure, who was arrested on Friday, is being charged with inciting public violence and defeating the course of justice hardly a week after he was released on bail on a murder charge emanating from a 2016 death that was ruled by the High Court as a suicide.
“Police arrested Chere on the same murder charge and a day after, suspected state security agents raided Artuz offices and went on to ransack Masaraure’s home in Harare.”
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It added: “This chain of events is not coincidental as it comes at a time when government is escalating its onslaught on civil society organisations that speak out for the realisation of people’s freedoms and against corruption, misgovernance and human rights violation as espoused in the constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Political analyst Methuseli Moyo said it was unfortunate that arrests of CCC members were politically motivated.
“This is not to say opposition activists must be above the law, but the moment the arrests seem to consistently target anti-government critics, people will conclude it is political harassment,” Moyo said.
“The state will say they committed crimes.
“We can only speculate they are being targeted because they are a thorn to the ruling party.”
CiZC called for an end to the persecution of government critics.
“The state is doing this by abusing the law enforcement and justice systems to only arrest and persecute those in civil society, journalism and opposition politics who dare speak truth to power,” it added.
“In light of all that is happening, it is clear that the latest arrests can only be part of a grand scheme to silence the civil society movement in Zimbabwe.
“When Mnangagwa was sworn in in November 2017 following the military coup, he promised to open up the democratic space, but we have seen in the last few years that Zimbabwe has slid back to full autocracy where the justice system is no longer independent and is just being used as a tool of repression.
“We have had more situations where people have been arrested for merely advocating for the realisation of human rights.”
Mnangagwa is accused of going back on his promises to turn Zimbabwe into a democracy following Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule.