Rights watchdog raps repressive govt, police

INTERNATIONAL human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has accused the Zimbabwean government of using the police as tools of repression against political opponents.

NQOBANI NDLOVU
STAFF REPORTER

Amnesty International in its annual 2014 to 2015 report noted many human rights violations, among them the use of unconstitutional laws limiting freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police continued to use brutal force and torture against anti-Mugabe protesters and human rights defenders,” the organisation said.

“Intra-party violence was recorded in both the ruling Zanu PF party and the main opposition party, MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

“State institutions’ abuse against political opponents continued mainly in the context of factional rivalry within Zanu PF.

“The police were used to arrest perceived opponents and prosecutions were brought on apparently politically motivated charges.

“For example, Jabulani Sibanda, a former war veterans’ leader, was arrested on November 27 for refusing to attend Grace Mugabe’s provincial rallies, where other party leaders were denounced.”

The report noted how the police had assaulted activist, Itai Dzamara, for protesting against President Robert Mugabe’s continued stay in power.

“On November 26, four members of the Occupy Africa Unity Square, Tichaona Danho, Charles Nyoni, Terry Manzini and Shungu Mutize, were arrested and detained after submitting a petition to the Speaker of Parliament and staging a peaceful protest in the Speaker’s gallery,” the report notes.

“They were severely beaten and released without charge after six hours. At the police station, the men were ordered to undress.

“Three officers whipped them, ordered them to beat each other, demanded to know their group’s mission and implored them to stop protesting against Mugabe.”

The report notes that several people were assaulted by the police during the past year.

Housing rights were violated last year, the watchdog said.

“Despite provisions in Section 74 of the Constitution protecting people from arbitrary evictions, the government and local authorities carried out evictions without court orders,” the report noted.

“On September 25, Harare City Council served 324 ‘illegal settlers’ with 48-hour eviction notices: A completely inadequate timeframe.

“In September, the council demolished informal business structures in the city centre without a court order, threatening family livelihoods dependent on the informal sector, as the economy shrank with over 80% formal unemployment.”

Amnesty International cited examples of forced evictions in Chitungwiza and Chingwizi Holding camp in Masvingo.

“The executive continued to enforce old unconstitutional laws, including those limiting the rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly,” the organisation said. “Violations of economic and social rights continued, including forced evictions in rural and urban areas.

“Mass job losses occurred, as companies closed due to an unfavourable economic climate.

“Intra-party violence was recorded in the ruling Zanu PF party and the main opposition party. There were reports of torture by the police.”

The international rights watchdog noted failure of the government to align laws to the new Constitution as a human rights violation.

Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution in 2013, but nearly 400 laws are yet to be aligned to the new Charter. The Constitution largely retains Zimbabwe’s imperial presidential powers, devolves more power to local government structures, strengthens the role of Parliament, expands civil liberties and elevates the status of women.

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