By Columbus Mavhunga
Rights organisations are concerned about what they say is a crackdown against opposition activists by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
They cite the recent arrest of seven activists who were detained when they returned home from a conference in the Maldives.
Makomborero Haruzivishe, a family friend of the one of the activists, Tatenda Mombeyarara, said the treason charges were false.
“It’s a baseless charge. It’s a charge that they are using to crack down on human rights defenders and civil society in Zimbabwe,” Haruzivishe said.
“But the reality on the ground is that the economy is in tatters.
“Tempers within the country are high, so the government throws fear into people, to pacify them.
“They are going for opposition people. They are going for leading civic organisations in order to pacify them in case of any peaceful mass action.”
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, told VOA that he would not comment on the seven activists, as their case was now in court.
The seven were arrested last month on arrival at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on their return from attending a workshop in the Maldives.
The government says the workshop taught them tactics to overthrow Mnangagwa’s government .
Haruzivishe said nothing much had changed since Robert Mugabe’s regime ended in 2017.
“Change is there, but is for the worse, to be honest,” he said.
“In the Mugabe era, we were more of a police state.
“But now, we are under a military state.
“If you check on the charges, they are being accused of being trained in small arms — that’s a military intelligence operation where you give people military-linked charges so that you can deal with them in military manner.”
Kumbirai Mafunda from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the treason charges showed a pattern in the persecution of civil society activists.
“We believe that these people did not commit any crime or offence according to Zimbabwean law,” he said.
They enjoy several of their fundamental rights. We believe that this is one of the several cases which we have seen (for) a couple of years where we have seen the government going down on the work of civil society.”
Arresting opposition activists was a common tactic used by Mugabe during his 38 years in power. Human rights groups want to see the charges against the seven activists dropped. — VOA