By Pauline Hurungudo
Security agencies have continued a crackdown on opposition activists in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the January fuel price hike riots that convulsed the country, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has said.
The police, soldiers, and Zanu PF militia continued to beat up and harass scores of people in February as they searched for opposition party officials, with the faith-based rights group recording 196 human rights violations in the month.
The wave of repression began in January with the army moving through neighbourhoods in Harare, the capital, and satellite towns, in a sweeping crackdown after three days of protests and labour strikes against a fuel price hike in January.
ZPP — a rights organisation that monitors, documents and promotes the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts – said in its latest report the February figures marked a decrease from the January 2019 figure of 668 when the security forces responded to demonstrators with “unprecedented use of excessive force.”
Approximately 62 percent of the recorded violations in the post-protest period of February were of harassment, intimidation and threats.
“In Harare, soldiers also assaulted civilians in a door-to-door operation in Dzivaresekwa around 11pm on 7 February for unclear reasons.
“Assaults constituted 10 percent of the violations recorded, discrimination 9 percent, theft/looting 6 percent and abduction 3 percent. Harare province continued with the highest violations for February with 46, followed by Mashonaland Central with 34, Midlands 31 and Mashonaland East with 23,” the report read.
The conglomerate of about eight civic society organisations (CSOs) further stated that some of last month’s violations were precipitated by remarks made by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at rallies where he incited security forces “to conduct witch hunts and crackdowns on CSOs and activists”.
“Zanu PF activists whose names have been withheld also carried out the military-led retribution with the aim of disciplining protesters alleged to be a progeny of MDC Alliance members…
“Following the utterances of the president, non-governmental organisations have been forced by circumstances to cancel some of their programming, as a result; the operating space has become volatile and unsafe for most programming,” the report said.
This also comes after lawyers had also raised concern over the undermining of their freedom to represent their clients in court, citing attacks from Zanu PF youths.
During the crackdown on anti-government protests, human rights activists in January reported the emergence of torture camps in the country following the clampdown on protesters, opposition leaders and other human rights activists.
ZPP revealed that “the revival of terror bases or torture bases has been ongoing in Mazowe Central.”
“In Binga, a chief was reported to have advised village heads to ban community meetings by those perceived to be MDC-Alliance supporters.
“The chief has also resumed food aid distribution on partisan grounds,” the report read.
Meanwhile, human rights activists have also said there were unwarranted attacks of doctors who had been providing support to the injured human rights defenders during anti-government protests in January.
“ZPP is concerned about the continued blame game targeting CSOs that have been described as regime change agents by the government, in the aftermath of the violent protests as this tarnishes the role and efforts made by CSOs in supporting engagements towards building lasting peace in Zimbabwe,” read the report.
At the heart of Zimbabwe’s problems are a failing economy and the opposition’s continued challenge to Mnangagwa’s legitimacy. He narrowly won the presidential election last July, promising to deliver economic reforms and democratic freedom after almost four decades of Robert Mugabe’s oppressive rule.
But critics say the new administration has so far failed to resolve the economic woes it inherited, and its security forces have launched brutal repression of the public. Daily News.