Harare – The state-funded Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has said that police violated the rights of Zimbabweans during recent protests in an unprecedented slap on the wrist for President Robert Mugabe’s government.
The commission, which was set up under a new constitution adopted at a 2013 referendum, expressed concern about the force’s use of teargas and encouraged members of the public who felt they’d been on the receiving end of police brutality during protests to lodge an official complaint with the commission.
“It is noted with regret that the police did violate the fundamental rights of the people as evidenced by the facts gathered on the ground,” a statement issued on Sunday read.
It came two days after violent scenes rocked the centre of Harare as police fought running battles with opposition supporters who’d tried to push ahead with a court-sanctioned march for electoral reforms. Social unrest is intensifying with near-daily protests in Zimbabwe where cash shortages and a lack of jobs are making life tough for many.
‘No Arab spring’
Police have used batons, teargas and water cannons to pummel protesters and pedestrians, and injuries have been reported.
Longtime leader Mugabe, 92, vows there will be “no Arab spring” in the country he has ruled with an iron fist since independence in 1980.
The rights commission, which has previously faced accusations that it is ineffective, said: “Security concerns should not be used as an excuse to harass demonstrators or non-demonstrators, which undermines the fundamental principles granted by our constitution and international law.”
Zimbabweans on social media on Sunday pooh-poohed attempts by Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo to push a claim by state media that the US embassy and its allies used “pseudo operatives” dressed in police uniforms to damage the image of the force.
Seventy people were in police cells this weekend following their arrest during Friday’s protests, including two 68-year-olds, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Sunday.
Scores of ruling party youths were meantime reported to be moving through the streets of central Harare on Sunday morning with no apparent attempts by police to stop them. Local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere said they were on a clean-up.
Media watchdog @ZimMediaReview claimed ruling party officials were compiling a list of those attending and promising to give them housing stands.