Zimbabwe rights groups slam army crackdown

Published Jan 26, 2019


Harare - Zimbabwe human rights organisations have expressed concern about the continuing military crackdown, which they maintain is mostly targeting people living in townships and activists.

Human rights lawyer David Coltart yesterday said the army’s door-to-door crackdown was on homes near areas that had roads barricaded and shops looted during the deadly protests that claimed 12 lives and left 78 with gunshot wounds when soldiers opened fire.

“The army and police crackdown is nationwide but mostly restricted to the high-density suburbs. People are being arbitrarily beaten up and accused of being looters. Civil society leaders are being arrested and denied bail,” said Coltart.

He called the denial of bail and abduction of activists a crime against humanity.

“This shift to targeted leaders of civil society is very worrying. Just today, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Peter Mutasa was arrested and is behind bars. Many others are in hiding and fear for their lives.”

On Thursday, hundreds of vendors were rounded up and taken to Harare Central Police Station.

“Again they were beaten up and later released without charge.”

Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson Charity Charamba refused to comment on the allegations and cut off her cellphone when reported calls were made to her.

Matabeleland Collective, a network of civil society organisations and churches based in Bulawayo, has also registered concerns about the violent aftermath stemming from the 150% raising of fuel prices earlier this month.

“It was worrying to hear and verify reports that heavily armed police and soldiers went door to door indiscriminately assaulting citizens in the dead of night trying to peacefully sleep in their homes.”

It noted such violations in Mabuthweni, Iminyela, Emganwini and Entumbane townships in Bulawayo.

“After kicking the doors open, groups of soldiers and police demanded all male children and adults to come out of their homes and lay down on their stomachs and get thoroughly beaten and threatened for ‘allegedly killing a police officer or sending their children to loot’,” it said.

It estimates that more than 1000 residents were subjected to this treatment.

Coltart said it was worrying that human rights lawyers were being blocked from helping those being held at different police stations.

“There is a total subversion of the courts, especially the magistrates' courts. We have received information that magistrates must deny all bail applications.”

Since the return of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday from a trip to Europe, the crackdown has remained in place in the townships.