We the undersigned civil society organisations convened under the banner of the People Matter Campaign express our deep concern over the escalating persecution of trade unionists, civil society leaders and human rights defenders. We note with concern the abduction of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, Dr Peter Magombeyi on Saturday 14 September 2019. The abduction of Dr Magombeyi follows the ongoing industrial action by medical doctors in Zimbabwe demanding a decent living salary. We reiterate our calls for his immediate release and call on the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately stop persecuting unionists and human rights defenders.
As a collective of unionists, civil society and churches, we reiterate our position that the Government of Zimbabwe must uphold the Constitution, respect for human rights and adhere to all full tenets of democracy.
We are worried that:
Over the years Zimbabwe has a history of enforced disappearances with prominent activists such as Edson Sithole, Itai Dzamara, Rashiwe Guzha, Patrick Nabayama, Ghandi Mudzingwa and Jestina Mukoko. Some were eventually found and arraigned before courts on spurious charges while others have never been accounted for.
We thus note that:
- On August 1 2018, the military shot and killed 6 unarmed citizens following protests over disputations on the 30 July elections.
- Between January and February 2019, 21 people were killed following the peaceful stay away organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
- During the same period, the state arrested over 300 citizens on allegations of committing public violence
- In May 2019, police arrested 7 civil society leaders on their way from a transitional workshop in the Maldives and charged them with subversion
- In August alone, police arrested over 80 citizens in Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Harare on allegations of committing public violence. In Harare, medical facilities have recorded more than 20 cases of people who were brutally assaulted by police including a journalist, Fani Mapfumo, who was covering a peaceful protest on the 16th of August 2019. The injured include women and children.
- Democratic space continues to shrink in Zimbabwe and has been worsened with the banning of demonstrations in all major towns signalling a ‘state of emergency.’
We fear that if the situation continues unchecked, there are greater chances of an escalation of social unrest and instability in Zimbabwe. This might result in regional instability as Zimbabweans seek food, shelter and refugee in neighbouring countries and therefore demand and recommend the following:
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to refocus its energies on an inclusive national reforms program that seeks to broaden and strengthen democratic space and development. The persecution of unionists and CSOs leaders only dampen efforts at achieving a shared national consensus to reform. We reiterate our call for an inclusive process on the national dialogue that brings all stakeholders together.
We further clarify that in our view the national dialogue that we continue to call for is not predicated on creating another version of a Global Political Agreement or an elite power-sharing deal. We reiterate that our envisaged national dialogue should be a reform process that seeks to safeguard the interest of citizens by restoring the Social Contract between the citizens and those that govern and uphold human security in Zimbabwe.
In this regard, we hold the firm view that the national dialogue process must never be restricted to political parties but should rather bring on board a cross-section of stakeholders that include civic society, labour, women, youth, religious groups, business among other critical stakeholders.
Restricting the dialogue process to political parties will only create a political pact that excludes the concerns of ordinary citizens. We strongly denounce cosmetic approaches to the national dialogue process.
We further call on the Government of Zimbabwe to prove its sincerity by ensuring that Zimbabwe has a conducive environment for holding an inclusive dialogue process in the wake of state-sponsored terror that has increased fear levels amongst citizens. To create a conducive environment and as part of confidence and trust-building in the national dialogue, the government must immediately meet the following conditions:
- End torture, abductions and enforced disappearances, murder, rape and maiming civilians by the military, state security agents and ruling party vigilante groups
- Decriminalize the work of civil society and end the continued persecution and arbitrary arrests of civic society leaders
- Ensure that peace and human security to prevail to allow for all stakeholder to freely express their views on the national dialogue process
- Release of all political prisoners and return Zimbabwe to the rule of law
- The attack on Chapter 12 institutions must seize and independent constitutional bodies allowed to discharge their mandate without undue interference from the state and other conflicted parties
- Promote fair media coverage for all stakeholders and allow divergent views to be shared on all media platforms. Tolerance to divergence is the hallmark of enriching the national dialogue process
We reiterate our position that persecution of human rights defenders and trade unionist in Zimbabwe pose serious human security challenges for ordinary citizens and the global democratic order and restate our commitment to defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe must be guided by the Constitution and a firm commitment made to uphold the Rule of Law and Respect for fundamental human rights.
Signed by the members of the People Matter Campaign:
- Zimbabwe Devine Destiny
- Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
- Zimbabwe National Students Union
- Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
- National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
- Students Solidarity Trust
- Heal Zimbabwe Trust
- Amalgamated Rural Teachers Unions
- Election Resource Centre
Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition