The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union to urgently and publicly speak out against the Zimbabwe government’s crackdown on peaceful anti-corruption protests on July 31, 2020.
This follows the recent arrests of at least 60 people, including the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and the opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, in connection with the protests.
Sixteen people were injured and required medical attention. Dangarembga was released on bail the next day.
However, SADC has been quiet on the situation in Zimbabwe, which has raised questions on the leadership of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs both organisations.
“SADC and the African Union should call out Zimbabwe’s government for its repression and rampant abuses throughout the country,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“It’s important for these regional institutions to send strong signals to the Mnangagwa administration that flagrant violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties are unacceptable. The Zimbabwe authorities have increasingly arbitrarily arrested critics of the government,” Human Rights Watch said.
The Democratic Alliance, an opposition party on SA, said the silence from President Ramaphosa, in his capacity as President of both South Africa and the African Union (AU), on this matter is of great concern as he has a duty to send a clear and stern warning to the Zimbabwean government to exercise restraint and to remind it the international community is watching.
President Ramaphosa has lost a great opportunity to show true statesmanship. It is therefore important internally, regionally and internationally that he makes an urgent, public statement condemning the human rights abuses and oppression of peaceful protest.
On July 20, the police arrested and detained Hopewell Chin’ono, an awarding-winning journalist, and Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the political group Transform Zimbabwe.
Both were denied bail and remain in custody, accused of inciting public violence. Chin’ono and Ngarivhume had helped expose high-level corruption in Zimbabwe and called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on July 31.
On the eve of the anti-corruption protests on July 30, security forces raided the house of Mduduzi Mathuthu, a prominent journalist and editor of the online newspaper Zimlive, in Bulawayo.
Failing to find him, they arrested his three nephews, Tawanda Muchehiwa, 22, Advent Mathuthu, 25, and Amandlenkosi Mathuthu, 19.
The security agents also detained Mathuthu’s sister, Nomagugu Mathuthu, to compel him to turn himself in, but released her hours later.
Advent Mathuthu was charged with incitement of public violence after allegedly being found with flyers saying “Mnangagwa & His Cabinet Must Resign,” but was freed by a court.