The head of a teachers’ union in Zimbabwe was on Thursday recovering after being abducted and beaten by suspected state agents on Wednesday night.
The incident came hours after the European Union (EU) held talks with the Zimbabwe government, the first in a series of meetings aimed at ending years of strained relations over Harare’s alleged rights abuses.
The Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe organised this week’s stay-at-home strike, which appeared to have been only partially followed.
On Wednesday night, the head of the union, Obert Masaraure, was abducted from his Harare home by a group of armed men, taken to a secluded place, then stripped naked and beaten.
His union said the assailants warned him to stop mobilising teachers to strike.
Rights groups allege there is a crackdown against their members and what they say is the shrinking of Zimbabwe’s democratic space.
Top EU diplomat to Harare, Timo Olkkonen tweeted that the assault of Masaraure was unjust and unacceptable.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa said Masaraure’s kidnap, coming hot on the heels of the detention of his deputy Godfrey Chanda in Gweru on Tuesday, pointed to the deterioration of the political situation in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe has turned into a pariah state and banana republic,” he said on Twitter.
Masaraure and other unionists appear to have been targeted for urging their members to go on strike for three days starting on Monday this week.
Masaraure’s wife raised the alarm after six men wearing masks stormed their home and grabbed her husband in front of their terrified children before driving away into the night. Eye Witness News