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.