HAMREF Statement on the Arrest of CHITREST Director

The Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum, a coordination platform for Residents Associations within the Harare Metropolitan area condemn the arrest of the Director of Chitungwiza Residents Trust on allegations of inciting public violence.

Coincidentally, the arrest of Ms. Kuvheya comes at a time when Chitungwiza Residents Trust had successfully blocked demolitions in the Harare Metropolitan area mainly Chitungwiza and Harare. Section 85 (1) (d) and (e) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe entitles any person acting in the public interest and any association acting in the interest of its members to approach the court, alleging that a fundamental human right or freedom has been, is being or likely to be infringed. Thus, CHITREST acted within the confines of the law by seeking a court relief against the demolitions.

We bemoan the continued abuse of the provisions of the Criminal Code as a deliberate ploy to silence alternative voices and human rights defenders.

We believe that Ms. Kuvheya was conducting her civic duty in defending the rights of her fellow poor and powerless country men who are under siege from the state and her actions do not warranty such persecution or any arrest.

We are of the view that actions against Ms. Kuvheya are meant to cow Residents Associations to stop demanding transparency and accountability in our crooked local governance system. The level of the abuse of the law and of state machinery to oppress citizens that we are now witnessing has no place in any democracy and we are worried that the Second Republic is now reverting to the old practices of the Robert Mugabe era.

We are further worried over the increase of the presence of the state in the functions of our local authorities, a move that is creating confusion in Municipalities and it is against the spirit and letter of Chapter 14 on devolution in the constitution of the land.

We do not oppose bringing order into the metropolitan province neither do we condone lawlessness, but we are opposed to the strategy being employed by the government, in particular issuing of directives without broader consultations of stakeholders and citizen. Any demolition should be accompanied by a High Court Order as provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe, government and local authorities should not act both as referee and player in the mess they have created.

We call upon all Residents Associations, Civic Society and residents to stand up and continue to demand accountability as provided for by the supreme law of the land.

We further call upon the government of Zimbabwe, local authorities and government agencies to uphold constitutionalism and respect fundamental human rights and freedoms provided by both domestic and international law.

Finally, we conclude and reiterate that the arrest of Ms. Kuvheya is purely persecution and intimidation tactics aimed to silence Residents Associations in demanding transparency and accountability on decisions made on our local governance.

HAMREF will also approach the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to seek redress on the continued use of the police to harass human rights Defenders on trumped up charges.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association

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