Zimbabwean citizens have once again today, 16 August 2019 experienced a wave of indiscriminate use of force by armed police to stop peaceful protests. The protests have been called for by the MDC Alliance in the wake of ever deteriorating socio-economic conditions that have been prevailing in Zimbabwe since the 2018 harmonized plebiscites.
The new government introduced austerity measures under the Transitional Stabilisation policy, since their assumption of office in the last quarter of 2018. The Transitional Stabilization efforts have failed to bring any meaningful stabilisation in the economy. Instead it has made the lives of the ordinary citizens much more unbearable. More than half of the Zimbabwean population has since been rendered food insecure. Citizens are struggling to access basic human necessities such as fuel, food, school fees for children, medication and fuel. Persistent load shedding has seen households and industries going for an average 18 hours a day without electricity.
In response to the worsening socio-political economic situation, the country’s biggest opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-Alliance) organized a nationwide demonstration to show the government that life for the ordinary citizens had become unbearable. The Party is also protesting the worsening human rights situation in the country that has seen 22 people being charged of treason while activists and opposition leaders/supporters have kept in remand out of custody.
Unfortunately, whilst the constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and expression as, the Government of Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Republic Police Services decided to ban the demonstrations on the eve of the 16 August demonstrations alleging sinister motives to cause violence in the country. The banning of the demonstrations came after the Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans and a prominent figure in the ruling party publicly warned that the army would not hesitate to kill civilians should they protest. These statements and the protest ban also came hard on the heels of widespread abductions, torture and harassment of political and civic activists in the capital Harare and Bindura. These include death threats and abductions of several MDC and CSO affiliated individuals such as Obert Masarure (ARTUZ) and Tatenda Mombeyarara (Citizen Manifesto) and random arrests of Pride Mkono (Youth Chairperson of Crisis Coalition) among others.
In Bindura, a report from one of Alliance of Community Based Organizations (ACBOS) member of secretariat suggests that she was being followed by an unidentified man who went on to pose threatening questions to the young woman about the organization before moving on. One #VoteRunLead Alumni was called for questioning by the Bindura Central Intelligent Department (CID) on unclear charges on the 15th of August. This is a clear indication that the security sector has its eyes cast on CSOs and CBOs and is willing to compromise their security at any moment’s time.
More so, an appeal by the MDC-Alliance to the High Court of Zimbabwe to have the demonstrations proceed was thrown away. The violations directly contradict sections 58-59 of the Constitution on promoting the rights and freedoms to assembly and peaceful demonstration.
The ACBOs notes with grave concern the implications of the economic hardships and the ever-deteriorating political situation on the female constituency, more specifically young women in the country. Citizens in our constituencies are living in fear as community surveillance, censorship has increased due to increased militarisation of the state and communities which resulted in human rights abuses including displacements, brutal beatings, sexual violence and murder of civilians by the army, police and radical party devotees following January protests. In Harare the police descended on protesters following the court dismissal of the MDC application. CBOs have reported heavy police presence in Bindura, Gwanda, Masvingo and Chipinge. In Mutoko some businesses are closed, showing that the protest has turned into a stay away in some areas. Posters discouraging citizens to protests have also been awash in Gwanda and Masvingo.
ACBOs strongly condemns the ever increasing efforts by the government to deny citizens their constitutionally guaranteed rights to protest. We call upon the government to uphold citizens’ freedoms to peacefully and freely express their concerns. More so, we call upon government to identify the cause of citizens’ justified disgruntlement at the state of affairs economically and socially and instead of stifling efforts to speak up, put effort in raising the standards of living for the ordinary Zimbabwean.
Source: Alliance for Community Based Organisations (ACBOs)