Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe Researcher Simeon Mawanza said: “Police officers regularly and systematically aim to frustrate human rights defenders’ engaging in peaceful protests. This kind of behaviour contravenes part of Zimbabwe’s ‘Global Political Agreement’ which requires all government bodies to strictly observe the rule of law and remain non-partisan and impartial.
“It’s unacceptable that more than a year since the setting up the unity government, harassment and intimidation of human rights activists is being tolerated. Police should respect and protect human rights and not be the primary opponents of progress.”
Other activists in Zimbabwe have been intimidated and harassed by authorities in Zimbabwe.
One high-profile human rights worker, Gertrude Hambira, Secretary General of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), has been forced to go into hiding after continued harassment by Zimbabwean police officers. In March this year, Gertrude was forced to flee after officers from the Law and Order section based at Harare Central police station raided the union’s head office in search of her.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were recently arrested and detained for six days without charge after they took part in a peaceful demonstration in the country’s capital, Harare.
WOZA members – Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Clara Manjengwa and Celina Madukani – were arrested on 15 April while attending a peaceful demonstration protesting against rising electricity prices. They were arrested along with 61 others who were subsequently released.
The four women reported how they were detained in “hellish” conditions exacerbated by erratic water supplies in Harare.
Amnesty International UK’s Trade Union Campaigns Manager, Shane Enright said: “It’s so important that people around the world stand in solidarity with the brave human rights and trade union activists in Zimbabwe this May Day. Our message to the police and security services is that we are watching you and will call you to account, however long it takes.”
Amnesty has documented consistent politicised and partisan policing by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), in particular the Law and Order section, aimed at silencing the voices of human rights defenders.
In March police arrested Okay Machisa, the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). Machisa was forced to temporarily leave the country as a result of his arrest.
Mawanza said: “In order to ensure it upholds its commitments set out in the Global Political Agreement, the Zimbabwe government must make every effort to ensure that police officers are adequately trained and allow people to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association and to carry out peaceful protests.”