Zim Soldiers Attack Human Rights Activist, Amnesty Calls For Security Reforms

Fidelis Chima, the Hwange Human Rights Youth Forum chairperson, was assaulted by a group of six soldiers after they found him distributing The Changing Times and The Weekly Agenda newsletters at Hwange’s Number One bus terminus.

Speaking to Radio VOP Chima said the six young and drunk army officers from 1,2 Infantry Battalion barracks in Hwange accused him of being a sell out and beat him thoroughly before confiscating the newsletters.

“I was just busy distributing The Changing Times and Weekly Agenda newsletters to members of the public at the bus terminus when the army officers who were visible drunk stopped me and started assaulting me before confiscating the newsletters.

“They accused me of being a sell out of the British by distributing these newsletters,” said Chima.

Chima said had it not that he managed to escape and flee from the scene the soldiers were going to finish him off. “I was lucky that I managed to escape otherwise we should be talking about something now,” he said.

The Hwange Human Rights Youth Forum chairperson said he made a report to Hwange police station before get treated for minor injuries at Hwange Mine Hospital.

In the past recent months there has been an increase in the number of cases in the country where soldiers beat up civilians for being members of the MDC or for criticizing President Robert Mugabe and his party Zanu (PF).

Last week the MDC-T said a group of soldiers teamed up with Zanu (PF) youths and police to assault its members in the high density suburbs of Budiriro, Mbare and Mabvuku in Harare.

Amnesty International in a statement, said urgent security reforms in Zimbabwe were needed to eradicate the partisan and biased behaviour of the country’s police force, which continued to exist despite the presence of the inclusive government.

International human Rights watchdog’s Africa for Director Erwin van der Borght said two years after the unity government was set up in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International was still concerned about lack of progress in implementing key reforms to address the legacy of human rights abuses.

“On the second anniversary of the Government of National Unity (GNU), Amnesty International is urging Zimbabwe’s coalition government to act on ongoing human rights abuses and to institute reforms of the
security sector and the media.

“The hope for an end to a decade of human rights abuses that greeted the unity government two years ago, is rapidly fading away and has been replaced by fear and instability amid talk of another election in 2011,” said.

In recent weeks, supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party in Harare have targeted perceived supporters of the MDC-T formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, with violence with the tacit
approval of the police”.

Ironically the police have since accused MDC-T of instigating violence against Zanu (PF) supporters.

On 21 January 2011, Amnesty International said its delegates witnessed Zanu (PF) supporters protesting and beating up members of the public at Harare’s Town House in the presence of anti-riot police.

“It is an open secret that Zanu (PF) supporters who use violence against members of the public or their perceived political opponents are beyond the reach of the law. Police have continued to selectively apply the law – turning a blind eye to violations by Zanu (PF) supporters while restricting the work of human rights organisations and the activities of other political parties.

“These events are just the tip of the iceberg; thousands of people in rural areas live in fear of violence amid talk that the country might hold another election in 2011. Concrete reforms of the security sector are urgently needed before the next elections are held. The security apparatus that instigated the 2008 political violence is still intact.” said van der Borght.

The organisation said it had received reports from Harare’s high density suburb of Mbare where MDC-T supporters were attacked and some forcibly evicted from their homes by ZANU-PF supporters. Police failed to protect those attacked and even arrested victims who came to report the incidents.