Dragnet arrest of opposition officials towards polls flagged
A JOURNAL by Africa’s leading research centre in the area of judicial governance, Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU), has flagged the Zimbabwe Republic Police over dragnet arrests of opposition activists and warned that the repressive actions could compromise the credibility of the 2023 general elections.
Released this week, The Journal of Democracy, Governance and Human Rights in Zimbabwe, was compiled in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, University of Cape Town and University of Zimbabwe.
“Through use of repressive laws and adding their own unlawful actions such as arbitrary use of force and dragnet arrests, police have made it difficult and dangerous for people to freely assemble and associate especially during electoral periods.
“. . . Police have been lethargic and unresponsive when it comes to investigating abductions, disappearances, torture and other criminal acts against opposition members and trade union or other civil society members,” reads part of the journal.
The journal was released a week after the arrest of 26 Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters at the Budiriro private residence of the opposition party’s legislator Costa Machingauta.
Lawyer Kudzayi Kadzere, who attempted to save the group, was brutally assaulted by the police, who also arrested the CCC’s interum organising secretary and Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya.
The majority of those arrested on charges of illegally gathering in Budiriro were women and the elderly.
Senior CCC politician and Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala has also spent more than 200 days in remand prison after police pounced on him last year over charges of inciting violence. He denies the accusations.
The recent journal highlights that the police crackdown on government critics and opposition supporters can be traced as far back as 2007.
“In March 2007, at a ‘Save Zimbabwe campaign’ prayer meeting, police violently disrupted the meeting, injuring many, arresting opposition MDC leaders and other civil society leaders.”
“In the 2013 harmonised elections observation report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) reported twelve cases of harassment of CSOs by the police ranging from arbitrary arrests, office raids, detention without charge, and confiscation of voter education material, inter alia.”
“75 out of the 274 cases documented by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in August 2018 were committed or suspected to have been committed by police including arbitrary arrests, assaults, disruption of meetings and abductions,” reads the journal.
The document also cites that while the ZRP is proactive in arresting opponents of Zanu PF, the force has failed to fully investigate cases of abuses against them.
“The cases of abduction and torture of Samantha Kureya, Dr Peter Magombeyi, Cecilia Chimbiri, Johanna Mamombe, Netsai Marova and disappearance of Itai Dzamara are some examples of police failure to fully investigate and bring the perpetrators to book.”
“The reported deaths of 17 people and sexual violence against women by the police and military after the January 2019 protests are also examples of police failure to fully investigate and hold perpetrators to account.”
“Failure to investigate crimes around electoral processes creates an intimidating environment dominated by fear of state sanctioned violence. As a result, most people will not freely associate with their political parties or participate in gatherings out of fear and this creates an unfair electoral environment,” reads the journal.
Last year, the police also disrupted rallies of CCC in Marondera, Gokwe, Masvingo, Mutare and banned the opposition party’s end-of-year gatherings in Harare and Chitungwiza.