#ZimShutdown Human Rights Update

In brief  

Zimbabwe still remains tense and the human rights environment deteriorating, particularly in high density suburbs where civilians remain under siege. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) continues to monitor the environment and document human rights violations since the call for the national stay-away on January 14, 2019. The Forum notes with concern the heavy presence of armed military personnel in most suburbs nationally. Reports of all forms of human rights violations continue to be received daily.

This report presents a summary of the human rights situation from 27 to 28 January, 2019. The Forum reports on the continuous human rights violations across the country and captures the attacks on vulnerable groups by members of the security forces.  Over the past two weeks, the Forum has documented 1332 violations of human rights with  ZNA and ZRP being implicated in all categories of violations.

Around the country
The Forum confirmed reports that on 27 January, 2019 state security agents went to Mbare and destroyed vending stalls amounting to malicious damage to property. The security agents had neither a warrant nor a court order to evict people from their daily areas of business. Popular places such as Mupedzanhamo[1] and other surrounding stalls were annihilated to the ground and burnt to ashes. The Forum is yet to establish how many people were evicted and fell victim to the operation.

Sexual Assault                               
There are reports in the mainstream and social media that the Forum is following-up on with regards to the recent spate of alleged sexual abuse of women by state security agents in the Harare and Bulawayo high density suburbs. 2 cases have been attended to by one of the Forum’s members in Harare.  1 case has been verified in Hwange.  14 cases are under investigation. Other cases have been reported in Bulawayo.
Bulawayo remains volatile. There is continued heavy presence and visibility of the army in high density areas. In Bulawayo, reports of arbitrary arrests have continued to trickle in. Information indicating that the military is still assaulting civilians in the high density suburbs is rife has not changed, whilst there are indications that women are being used as deterrence to further protests.

People Appearing Before the Courts of Law
6 people accused of violence during the shutdown have been acquitted after the Chinhoyi Magistrate Court found them not guilty of committing public violence crimes. This follows the arrest of the victims by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers last week for allegedly participating in anti-government protests. The six Chinhoyi residents namely Obey Zirota aged 37 years, Simbarashe Mubaira Kuenda aged 25 years, Mini Bizabani aged 41 years, Owen Musariranwa aged 48 years, Basil Nhira aged 19 years and Adonai Tiriwawi aged 22 years, stood trial in Mashonaland West province after they were arrested a fortnight ago and charged with public violence as defined in section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

In Harare, ZLHR reports that 13 Hatcliffe suburb residents who were charged with public violence have been acquitted by the Harare Magistrates Court after state witnesses failed to provide incriminating evidence to implicate any of the accused persons in the commission of the crime.

In Rusape, 2 people have been sentenced to 3 years in prison by the Rusape Magistrates Court for allegedly obstructing free movement of goods and vehicles during the shutdown protests. The Forum is deeply concerned as it believes that more people across the country will be imprisoned on frivolous and baseless charges.

In Mutare, Trymore Nyaropa has been convicted for allegedly obstructing traffic during the shutdown protests held in Mutare two weeks ago.  The Forum will closely follow develops around appeal of the imprisonment.

On 28 January, 12 Mvurwi protesters were supposed to stand trial at the Bindura Magistrates Court after spending almost two weeks in prison. However, it was reported that witnesses had a vehicle breakdown about 20 kilometres away from Bindura and were supposed to be assisted by the police to get to the Court. The Forum will follow-up and ascertain the outcomes of the trial on 29 January, 2019.

In Marondera, 18 people arrested on 16 January, 2019 accused of inciting the shutdown appeared before the Marondera Magistrate’s Court on 28 January, 2019 for sentencing. 13 were acquitted, whilst 5 have been remanded at St. Thomas prison after trial. The Forum will closely follow-up the trial and fate of the remaining 5.

In Gweru, MDC-A’s National Organiser and Mkoba MP, Amos Chibaya was supposed to stand trial before the Gweru Magistrate Court. The Forum will follow-up and report on the outcome of the trial on 29 January, 2019.

The Forum received a report that a 22-year old man from Mbare who was picked randomly by the army in the Harare CBD on 26 January, 2019, beaten and brutally tortured by the army with wire-coded sjamboks and iron rods died on 27 January, 2019 after suffering from abdominal pain and internal bleeding sustained during the torture.

Continuous Attacks on Opposition Leaders       
Since 14 January, 2019 the State initiated an attack on opposition which led to most of them to either go in hiding or to flee the country. On 28 January, 2019 one of the most vocal and active members of the MDC-Alliance MPs Charlton Hwende indicated that Zimbabwean security agents were pursuing him in Namibia. This distress call is yet to be verified, but the Forum can confirm that in other places, opposition MPS are facing trial for inciting violence and wanting to remove a ‘constitutionally’ elected government. More information will follow this report.

Statements from the Human Rights Community
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition 
Today, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition released a statement on the role of public or state affiliated media in Zimbabwe. The circular spoke strongly against the continuous role of state media in failing to report objectively and critique the State’s role in fuelling conflict and dividing the country. Read full statement here: http://kubatana.net/2019/01/28/state-controlled-media-fueling-crimes-humanity/.

Human Rights Watch 
The Human Rights Watch today released a statement indicating that the government’s reform agenda is hollow and is inadequate in addressing the plight of the majority of Zimbabweans, promote and protect human rights in the country following the violence which characterised the shutdown which commenced on 14 January, 2019 and ended two days later. The paper also touched on reforms in the media, elections, economy, security and health sectors.  See the full article here: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2019/01/mnangagwa-reforms-pledge-hollow-hrw/.

[1] This is a vending area in Mbare which was very popular for cheap clothes and shoes, probably one of the oldest places where retailers sell arguably the most affordable imported second-hand clothing in the country.

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