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'Operation Chikorokoza violating human rights'
Lesley Moyo, The Zimbabwe Independent
December 15, 2006

HUMAN rights activists have condemned the ongoing operation launched by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to hunt down alleged gold panners as another assault on human rights.

The raids, dubbed Operation Chikorokoza Chapera/Isitsheketsha Sesiphelile, have witnessed police mounting roadblocks on major highways to intercept suspected gold dealers destined for neighbouring countries to sell their alluvial gold.

Three major highways leading to Zambia, South Africa and Botswana in Matabeleland have been sealed as police mount roadblocks meant to recover the precious mineral.

But human rights activists have hit out at the body and luggage searches by police on travellers as violating basic human rights.

Kucaca Phulu, a human rights lawyer, lambasted both the police and the government for the disregard of human rights.

"The whole operation shows total disregard the police and the government have for the people of Zimbabwe," Phulu said.

"The searches show a disregard of human rights. The searches are not even conducted in a civilised manner. People are being made to queue like goats and cows and the police don't show any respect for the people."

Phulu said it was illegal for police to search people without any reasonable suspicion. "We were not even notified that the police would be conducting those searches."

Jenny Williams, leader of the militant Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists, said the police had subjected travellers to inhuman searches.

"We are disturbed by the police who are being used to perpetrate inhuman treatment on ordinary citizens."

Contacted for comment, Chief Inspector Andrew Phiri professed ignorance of the presence of roadblocks.

Condemnation of the searches come against a Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum report released this week accusing the police of numerous human rights violations between 2000 and now.

The report titled Who Guards the Guards - Violations by Law Enforcement Agencies in Zimbabwe, fingered state security agents as the biggest violators of human rights who are used by the ruling party to "suppress opposition and retain power".

President Mugabe has denied allegations of human rights abuses and has accused civic groups like the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Woza and the National Constitutional Assembly of provoking the police.

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