At a press conference on Wednesday, Zimrights national director Okay Machisa said members of his board had last week received threatening messages that warned them and other human rights defenders not to continue with civic education on the constitutional process in rural areas.
He said their Chitungwiza regional chairperson, Netsai Kaitano’s received a message which read, “Chipositori nekodzero, kana matongerwo enyika zvinopindirana papi? (How are apostolic faith and rights or politics linked?) Have you forgotten the pain of those beatings? (Munyaradzi) Bidi and (Arnold) Tsunga are gone; Pelagia, Ok, (Kucaca) Phulu and Tshuma won’t be there anymore, when we will come for you.”
Nunurai Jena, ZimRights Regional Chairperson for Mashonaland West received a message saying, “If we give you a task to ask your ZimRights colleagues to slow down and forget about the constitution making process will you do that or else…? Just comply,” said Machisa.
The messages were sent from the same Telecel mobile number, which is now unreachable
Two weeks ago Machisa also received a threatening email from a person claiming to be Dzapasi Mumunda and the message read, “You enjoy flying in and out of the country demonising your country, why don’t you go and stay there? They monitor, soon you will all stay out.”
ZimRights has since reported the threats to the Harare Central Police Station.
Trade unionist and Secretary-General of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), Getrude Hambira has been forced into hiding due to fears for her safety.
Hambira together with the workers union’s leadership were summoned by the dreaded Joint Operations Command (JOC) and were taken to task over a documentary entitled “House of Justice” and a report titled “If something is wrong” documenting the brutality surrounding the land reform programme. GAPWUZ leaders were warned that if the report and documentary were ever used or presented to the SADC Tribunal, GAPWUZ would be held accountable.
On Tuesday, 02 March 2010 police in Mutare arrested and detained three Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) employees, who were attending the union’s Regional Women’s Advisory Council’s civil and legal training in the eastern border city for five hours.
The police and some non state actors such as ZANU PF youths have also intensified their crackdown on journalists.
Freelance photojournalist Andrison Manyere has since January been either seized or arrested three times during the course of his legitimate work. Besides Manyere, another freelance journalist Stanley Kwenda fled the country after he was allegedly phoned and threatened with death by a senior police officer.
Zimbabwe’s civil society organizations have called on the government and in particular the Home Affairs co-ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa to guarantee their safety in the wake of an increased number of threats, intimidation and harassment leveled against human rights defenders over the past three months.
Machisa said despite what was thought to be the dawn of a new era for human rights defenders with the formation of a Government of National Unity, the last three months had seen an escalation in the number of threats, intimidation and harassment levelled against members of civil society.
“Security agents should strictly observe the principles of the Rule of Law and should adhere to the laws and regulations governing their operations. ZLHR and ZimRights calls upon the responsible authorities including the Ministry of Defence to penalise these elements without fear or favour,” said Machisa.