The continued arrest of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s critics has raised the ire of human rights organisations who say this continued trend spells doom for the 2021 human rights picture in Zimbabwe.
Human rights organisations and critics allege that the government wants to intimidate and silence opposition members and gag the media.
This follows the recent arrests of a journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, MDC Alliance top members, Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala on frivolous charges.
The trio was arrested and charged with violating section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which criminalises “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State”, a charge which was ruled to be unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Constitution in 2014 by the then Deputy Chief Justice, Luke Malaba.
The Human Rights NGO Forum Friday castigated the arrests saying they the government is abusing the constitution.
“The Forum notes with concern that these arrests are seemingly meant to intimidate opposition figures from speaking out and calling for the government to be accountable to its people.
“The government continues to default on its obligations in terms of the Constitution and in terms of international law. In terms of sections 58, 59, 60 and 61 the Constitution of Zimbabwe, citizens are entitled and well within their rights to speak out and complain when their freedoms have been infringed upon,” said the human rights watchdog in a statement.
Media guru and Mnangagwa’s top advisor, Trevor Ncube yesterday lambasted the state saying the arrests of the trio is an attack on freedom of expression.
“The arrest of Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, Job Sikhala and Hopewell Chin’ono represents a chilling attack on freedom of expression by the State. That the three have been charged under a law that was struck down by the constitutional Court in 2014 makes the violation of their rights to free speech even more pernicious.
“The words of Chief Justice Malaba are worth repeating “Government is prohibited from appointing itself as a monitor of truth for people” Muzzling those who call for state accountability is a cynical abuse of power,” said Ncube.
Renowned academic Professor Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu accused the Mnangagwa administration of adopting precolonial tactics of silencing opposition voices by arrests and violence.
“It seems the Mnangagwa regime in Zimbabwe is bent on criminalizing opposition politics through arrests and detentions similar to what the colonial regimes used to do.
“Is this regime still hell-bent on the out-of-date idea of a one-party state? Is the drive towards “Muzorewa-like” enforced internal settlement, which never worked? This politics of political repression will backfire. Rather than sedating the politics of opposition, it is manufacturing heroes and hardening them,” he said.