By Sij Ncube
Harare, September 23, 2016 – UNDER-SIEGE President Robert Mugabe has scaled up rights abuses in efforts to contain rising dissent against his faltering regime.
The former guerrilla war leader turned state president has in the recent past, dug deeper into scare tactics with clear signs he was going for broke to save his rule.
Mugabe this week banned the use of the national flag for any purpose by ordinary citizens.
This came hard on the heels of his government’s controversial ban on political demonstrations in what constitutional experts say was flagrant violation of the country’s supreme law.
In the recent past, the under fire leader’s government has arrested and detained journalists covering public protests, giving credence to critics’ claims his regime was an enemy of a free media and freedom of expression.
But it is the use of brute force, coupled with a slew of restrictions which has put spotlight on Mugabe’s new tactics.
The opposition and other anti-government forces have been restricted to the courts as they fight for their freedom to protest, a tactic analysts say was intended to confine them to the courts instead of the streets.
Women protestors arrested over protests during last week’s demonstrations showed a Harare court gut-wrenching wounds sustained on their buttocks in the hands of the police.
A journalist arrested during one of the demonstrations narrated to RadioVOP how he and other protestors were arrested by plainclothes “people” and taken to Zanu PF headquarters where they were all assaulted by party functionaries in a one long torture ordeal.
Similarly, a member of the firebrand Tajamuka group is also fighting for his life in a hospital after he was abducted by suspected state security agents before being brutalised on the outskirts of Harare.
Critics of Mugabe’s regime point out that while his government has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, it has instead deliberately ignored that duty in order to perpetuate his 36-year grip on power.
“State sponsored violence that is systematically planned, financed and deployed against the country’s citizens using state resources violates the constitution and contravenes international human rights. It further erodes the government’s legitimacy,” says the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in comments directed at the current brutalities.
Section 208 of the constitution says police have an obligation to protect and not violate the fundamental rights of any person.
Section 53 also provides that none must be subjected to physical and psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
It also violates section 59 of the constitution on freedom to demonstrate and petition.
Critics say Mugabe was now spreading across ministries, statutory instruments thwarting the full enjoyment of freedoms enshrined in the constitution in order to cling to power despite clear failing health and cluelessness in solving the nagging Zimbabwe crisis.
The National Election Reform Agenda on Wednesday expressed concern over the increasing repression and use of force against citizens.
NERA, a loose coalition of like-minded opposition forces, has launched a “Vote or Die” campaign intended at stopping state- sponsored violence.
On Wednesday, various civic groups issued statements to coincide with the commemoration of the World Peace Day in which they categorically said human rights abuses were a threat to national peace.
Thulani Mswelanto, programmes manager at Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, rising police brutality in the country was in essence, the implementation of a quasi-legal state of emergency.
“It is a shameful act and an indictment on the law enforcement agents. Central to this brutality is an attempt by a failed state to delay or rather ‘capture’ the citizen from claiming the ideals and normative of our constitutional democracy. While this will only delay and give setbacks to processes, it only serves to strengthen citizen agency and resolve against the dictatorship in Zimbabwe,” said Mswelanto.
“The behaviour by the police only confirms a paralysis in our constitutional democracy and what we have seen in Glen View, for example, will spread across the country targeting those that have a different way of looking at things in Zimbabwe. It’s a wakeup call for the activists that the state will use any means necessary to instil fear among citizens.”
MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi said the police brutality unleashed by Mugabe’s government has seen thousands of citizens being brutalised, harassed or arrested for exercising their constitutional right to protest.
“Mugabe does not have the moral authority to lecture anybody on conflict resolution or anything for that matter. It is astounding that despite the chaos in the country he has the audacity to stand on an international platform and accuse others of fuelling the refugee crisis. President Mugabe has lived up to become one of the biggest hypocrites of our times,” he said.