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Stop the victimization of human rights activists
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
October 17, 2007

This week has been marked by events which once again indicate that the Zimbabwean government is still far away from embracing the spirit of dialogue. Yesterday, more than 150 National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) activists marched along Sam Nujoma Avenue with the intention of sending a strong message to the house of parliament about the need for a new constitutional dispensation. The police heavily descended on the activists, resulting in 25 NCA members with serious injuries.

A day before the NCA march, students in Masvingo on a Free Edison Hlatshwayo Campaign organized demonstrations urging the state to set free Hlatshwayo who has been incarcerated for the past 21 days. 11 students were arrested; two were tortured and sustained deep injuries on the head.

The same day, more around 200 WOZA and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) took to the streets, launching a Preliminary Report on Political Violence against Members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise. They were arrested and later released without any charges after spending more than 10 hours in Harare Central police station cells.

The Coalition notes with grave concern how the police continue to selectively apply the law on narrow political lines. The war veterans, youth militia and any one serving the interests of the establishment are allowed to march under police escort.

On 31 August 2007, veterans under the leadership of Jabulani Sibanda marched in Harare in solidarity with the candidacy of President Robert Mugabe, aimed at silencing his dissenting lieutenants from within his ruling ZANU PF party. This triggered a domino effect of solidarity marches in Bulawayo, Gwanda and Gweru on the 12, 13 and 14th of October 2007 respectively. The police did not arrest anyone.

In all these marches, the police could only be differentiated from the war veterans through uniforms. They were in absolute cooperation with the militant arm of the ruling party. It is rather disturbing that when the police are dealing with the war veterans, with a proven record of violence and murder of opposition supporters there is cooperation. If the students engage the government on the ailing education sector the police engage the innocent students through combative and ruthless avenues.

The police have reneged from its core mandate of enforcing the law impartially and objectively. It has become a narrow enterprise at the mercy of the ruling party to canvass political profits for the few individuals at the expense of people's basic human rights.

On Tuesday, the Crisis Coalition team which was in Mashonaland East province on a Rural Outreach Program spotted more than 60 Border Gezi indoctrinated youths being trained para-military activities at Sadza Police Station by Uniformed army officers.

Once again, the government is lubricating its wheels and arsenal of violence on any dissenting voices. The notorious youth militia will traumatise the citizenry in the 2008 elections in line with their terms of reference authored and endorsed by the ruling party.

In the past, the youth militia, under the guise of 'national youth service' terrorized innocent Zimbabweans, brutalized opposition supporters, forced people to buy ZANU PF party membership cards and have been implicated in politically motivated murders. During the drought and food shortages of 2002 and 2003, they enforced the government policy - attacking retailers, arresting people in possession of scarce commodities, confiscating goods and stopping opposition supporters from getting food aid. In return for their services, they were rewarded with immunity from prosecution and with jobs in the military and police forces.

It is therefore the Coalition's humble submissions that the dialogue process currently taking place should deal with the issues of addressing state sponsored violence as one of the core demands before engaging in elections. Failure to address this cancerous vice in the political environment will yield nothing short of a disputed outcome.

Breaking News

Police are detaining three Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members at MacAdams Food outlet on allegations that they are planning to embark on more protests. The three are Clara Manjengwa, Lilian Nketula and Kesina Munda. The police want Jenni Williams, WOZA coordinator to surrender herself to Harare Central Police station

The Catalyst team visited the place and spotted three police officers and the detainees. They were being instructed to call Jenni Williams, whose phone they could not get through to.

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