Heal Zimbabwe castigates the unwarranted arrest of its Chairperson who is also Director for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights), Mr Okay Machisa, under false charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery and publishing falsehoods.
His arrest follows the subsequent arrest of the Zimrights Deputy National Programs Coordinator, Mr Leo Chamahwinya in December 2012 on trumped up charges of fraud and is currently detained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
It is clear that this a continued persecution of human rights defenders ahead of the pending constitutional referendum and national elections. The police have a tendency of arresting to investigate instead of first investigating the case and arrest later.
The clampdown is clearly meant to instil fear and daunt civil society organisations from conscientising the masses on voter registration and the voting process, a responsibility Zimrights has been carrying out.
HZT calls upon the Government of National Unity to end state sponsored harassment and persecution of human rights activists and the general populace at large.
The country has a precedence of increased human rights violations towards elections regardless of calls for peace by the national leadership. President Robert Mugabe was applauded in 2012 for calling for free, fair and peaceful elections but actions on the ground are not reflecting the call.
There are continued reports of human rights related violations in most parts of the country especially in Mashonaland Central and Masvingo and nothing is being done by institutions responsible especially JOMIC in ensuring communities are living in peace.
It is quite disheartening that human rights defenders are persecuted in the vicinity of the Principals to the Inclusive Government, it then raises concerns on how safe the ordinary citizens in Mwenezi, Mudzi, Gokwe Gumunyu and other remote areas of Zimbabwe are in the face of upcoming elections.
HZT buttresses the need for security sector reforms before any calls for elections as the country risk to fall into the same armpits of the 2008 election violence if these human rights violations are left unabated.