As activists at the Vigil commemorated the fifteenth month since the abduction by state security agents in Harare of the human rights campaigner Itai Dzamara, we displayed a new poster – this one condemning the arrest on Wednesday of his brother Patson.
Last week Patson released a photograph of what looked like his brother with his hands tied behind his back and a bandage around his head. He told a news conference that he had been given inside information ‘from within the evil establishment’.
Patson was arrested along with four other activists while taking part in a revived protest in Africa Unity Square originally started by Itai against Mugabe’s misrule. Their lawyer, Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said they had been charged with robbery and obstructing the course of justice. ‘These are trumped up charges to instil fear and discourage people from occupying Africa Unity Square,’ Shava said.
Ten more protestors were detained later in a clear move to close down the protest, which has been gathering increased support as the economy slips towards the cliff edge. They have all now been released on bail.
The Facebook page of Occupy Africa Unity Square was defiant, saying the protest would continue: ‘We have been attacked, robbed, beaten, detained without charges, arrested on trumped-up charges, denied bail by charging outrageous amounts, smeared in the Herald.
All of this for 10 days of activism. All this for demanding the Freedom hard-earned at Independence, and subsequently sold down the river’. Meanwhile, youths in Bulawayo have started their own occupation outside City Hall.
The protest has aroused international interest. This week the Times of London ran stories about Zimbabwe on three consecutive days. On Monday the headline was ‘Cash runs dry after Mugabe plunders banks’ (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/788-cash-runs-dry-after-mugabe-plunders-banks). For details of how Mugabe has plundered the banks see an article by Eddie Cross MP (http://nehandaradio.com/2016/06/11/they-have-done-it-again/).
Some newcomers to the Vigil were startled when a procession of naked cyclists rode past. We told them it was an annual event and assured them it had nothing to do with the Queen’s 90th birthday marked today by a fly-past after the ceremonial Trooping the Colour.
Our friends at the Swaziland Vigil confronted the Swaziland High Commissioner, Mrs Dumsile T Sukata, when she was driven away to attend Trooping the Colour. They pushed a poster against a rear window of her car showing a picture of King Mswati III with the wording ‘Wanted for Human Rights Abuses’. She desperately tried to close the window blinds.
On Tuesday 14th June the Vigil is presenting a petition to the Botswana High Commission in London calling on SADC to take action to avert meltdown in Zimbabwe. See ‘events and notices’ for details.
On Friday we were alarmed to hear that Vigil supporter Emmaculate Tshuma was to be deported that day. She was in a Home Office van outside Heathrow airport. Kenya Airways’ telephone lines were overloaded with calls telling them not to take Emmaculate back to Zimbabwe. We are relieved to say that she was not sent home.
Thanks to the big group that arrived early to help set up: Alfredy Mukuvare, Benjamin Chigamba, Chipo Parirenyatwa, Ethel Siduna, Eletha Mpofu, Esther Munyira, Etines Kapiya, Euliter Mutami, Eva Sanyahokwe, Flemming Diza, Fungayi Mabhunu, Isabell Gwatidzo, Jean Kawara, John Burke, Jonas Makombera, Kevin Gondo, Kidi Gotsi, Mandifusa Mushambadope, Mavis Chisvo, Mduduzi Ndlovu, Michael Sirewu, Michelle Makoni, Nancy Makurira, Nomcebo Ngwenya, Percy Dube, Phillip Mahlahla, Praisego Moyo, Rashiwe Bayisayi, Roseline Mukucha, Rosemary Maponga, Sihle Sibanda, Vusumuzi Ncube and Zenzo Siziba. Thanks to Roseline, Esthere and Etines for looking after the front table and to Phillip, Benjamin, Alfredy, Kevin and Mduduzi for putting up the high banners and the tarpaulin in the rain. Thanks to Chipo and Isabell for looking after the lucky dip to fundraise for ROHR Central London branch. Chipo made a beautiful cake to commemorate the Queen’s 90th birthday which was enjoyed by all.
For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website. For videos of Vigils and other events, check the ROHR facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/www.rohrzimbabwe.org/videos?fref=photo.
FOR THE RECORD: 44 signed the register.