Independent Monitors Assaulted

The monitors are part of the 420 independent monitors seconded by the Zimbabwe Peace Project, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights to shadow the troubled parliament-led constitution outreach programme (COPAC).

The three monitors, Paul Nechishanu, Artwell Katandika and Shingirayi Garira, who also lost their money and mobile phone handsets were currently recovering in hospital.

“There were seized by some Zanu (PF) youths at Scarffell Farm, Glynamel Farm and Baguta Primary School where they were monitoring the constitution making process,” read part of the statement issued by the three organisations who have deployed independent monitors.

“The youths used logs to assault the monitors. Garira sustained injuries on his eardrum while Nechishanu and Katandika suffered head injuries. The three monitors lost their mobile phones and some money.”

However two mobiles handsets were recovered on Monday after they were allegedly surrendered to the monitors’ colleagues by some Zanu (PF) supporters.

The three civil society organisations added that the assault of the independent monitors followed the arrest of two other monitors in Manicaland, Tapera Mavherevhedze and Godfrey Nyarota and their drive Cornelius Chengu who were arrested on Thursday last week while monitoring the constitution making process in Mukuni, Mutare North.

They were charged with contravening section 81 (3) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act for practicing journalism without accreditation. However, the three were freed last Friday after paying US$20 bail each. They will appear in court on July 09.

“We are concerned about the increasing undue intimidation and harassment of our monitors. We therefore appeal to COPAC to ensure the safety of the monitors in line with the call for tolerance of divergent views as well as zero tolerance to violence by the principals at the launch of the outreach process,” said the civil society organisations in the statement.

In a separate incident, the Bulawayo Agenda, which is monitoring proceedings in Mashonaland Central, said in a statement, community leaders chased away COPAC members, arguing that they must be accompanied by police details for security reasons.

“The Community leaders felt that the presence of police officers would help reduce the incidents of political violence during the consultative process as this province (Mashonaland Central) has a history of violence such as that of 2008,” reads part of the Bulawayo Agenda report on the progress of the outreach programme.

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri had been demanding US$ 3 million for providing security at COPAC meetings throughout the country. It is not clear whether the police was given this money because COPAC had argued that it did not have it. COPAC, through its co-chairpersons, had also queried why the police chief was demanding such a high amount when it was supposed to be police’s normal duty to provide security to such gatherings.

The constitutional process delayed by more than eight months due to lack of funding and constant bickering. Parliamentarians leading the process had also threatened a boycott citing low allowances.

The outreach team that started work on June 23, is faced with serious logistical problems with some meetings being cancelled because of lack of equipment, fuel and accommodation among other problems.

In Hwange outreach teams were said to be stranded as they did not have fuel and were yet to be given their allowances for the exercise.