Victorious Lawyer Faces Judicial Persecution As Women Flee Homes

Mutare, August 6, 2013 – Prominent human rights lawyer and MDC-T Member of Parliament-elect Arnold Tsunga will have less time to celebrate his victory in last month’s harmonised elections as he stands trial next month on trumped up charges of contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Tsunga, who served as deputy Chairperson of Radio VOP’s Board of Trustees prior to venturing into politics will stand trial together with 49 other MDC-T supporters after they were arrested last month and charged with committing criminal nuisance in contravention of Section 46 (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The 50 MDC-T supporters were arrested late last month while exercising their political rights right to association and expression after conducting a door to door political campaign on the eve of the harmonised elections. The former director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which has assisted several human rights and political activists facing persecution in Zimbabwe overcame a challenge from Giles Mutsekwa from the MDC-T party which fielded two candidates for the same constituency and Zanu PF’s Milcah Duru, together with some lesser contestants from the MDC, Mavambo/Dawn/Kusile’s and independent candidates. Besides Tsunga, other human rights lawyers who will serve in Parliament include Tendai Biti, who won the Harare East seat, Innocent Gonese, who won the Mutare Central seat and Brian Tshuma of Hwange Central. However, other human rights lawyers among them Jacob Mafume who challenged Zanu PF’s Shadreck Mashayamombe in Harare South together with those who have previously served as legislators since 2000 were unlucky to continue representing their constituencies after they were trounced by some Zanu PF legislators in elections which have been dismissed as a “farce” by MDC-T party leader Morgan Tsvangirai. These include Shepherd Mushonga, Tongai Matutu, Douglas Mwonzora and David Coltart of the smaller faction of the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube. Ncube, a lawyer by profession also lost the presidential elections to Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe who according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) won the presidential race with 61 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for his longtime rival Tsvangirai. According to ZEC, Zanu PF won 158 of the 210 parliament seats, giving it a two-thirds majority in the House of Assembly in which the MDC-T previously dominated in association with Ncube’s party. Meanwhile, human rights group Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday reported that Zimbabwean women were being forced to flee their homes for refusing to reveal their vote. AI said women were being threatened with violence and forced to flee with their children for refusing to reveal their vote to supporters of Zanu PF during last month’s harmonised elections. The women said they resisted instructions from Zanu PF supporters to feign illiteracy, blindness or physical injury, which would have meant someone else marking the ballot on their behalf. AI said at least six women left their homes with their 12 young children after facing intimidation from village heads in Mukumbura district in Mashonaland Central Province soon after the 31 July poll “It appears the ZANU-PF supporters wanted to ensure that these women did not vote for the other parties and tried to compromise the secrecy of the ballot,” said Noel Kututwa, AI’s Deputy Director for Africa. “The Zimbabwean police must guarantee the safety of political activists in rural areas following these reports of politically motivated displacement. The authorities have a duty to investigate any threats of violence and ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” Kututwa added. During last month’s discredited election there was a significant number of rural voters who were recorded as “assisted voters” for reasons including illiteracy or inability to mark the ballot for themselves even though Zimbabwe has above 90 per cent literacy which is the highest literacy level in Africa.