On 27 January 2022, six CCC members were arrested for wearing yellow t-shirts and helmets in the Harare CBD. Plainclothes police officers severely assaulted the six during the arrest, and one of the six fractured his right arm. They were detained overnight at Harare Central Police Station nefariously charged with disorderly conduct before being released on ZWL2000 bail each the following day (28 January 2022).
This was followed by a similar incident on 6 February 2022 in which Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) activists attacked CCC supporters during a campaign in Kwekwe. ZANU-PF supporters pelted stones towards Kwekwe Central CCC supporter Judith Tobaiwa’s vehicle, destroying windows on the vehicle. On Monday, 14 February 2022, CCC vice-president Tendai Biti and his aide, Emmanuel Zellers Gumbo, were arrested by three armed police officers, including the Officer-in-Charge of Rhodesville Police Station, and taken to Harare Central Police Station’s Law and Order Section. Biti and his aide were released without charge after Forum member, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights intervened. Although this incident did not culminate into direct violence, the use of State security agents to further political agendas remains a cause for concern.
On 16 February 2022, CCC supporters were assaulted with iron bars by ZANU-PF supporters in Harare East, where Biti is contesting against ZANU-PF candidate Mavis Gumbo for the 26 March by-election. They were assaulted for wearing yellow t-shirts. On 18 February 2022, a disabled CCC member known as DJ Vaneldo was also attacked by ZANU-PF supporters at his home in Highfields. His parents and people around the house were also assaulted. On the same day, 13 CCC members were arrested in the afternoon by the ZRP for allegedly staging a car rally. They were taken to Harare Central Police Station and charged with public violence for displaying their party leader Nelson Chamisa’s poster on their vehicles. Some of their vehicles were impounded. The 13 were assaulted by the police and declined access to medical services.
These recent incidents disregard the country’s Constitution. Section 53 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe entrenches the right to freedom from all forms of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Under Section 216 of the Constitution, the country’s police service is called to protect and secure the lives of the people and uphold the Constitution and enforce the law without fear, favour, or prejudice. The Forum accordingly condemns the conduct of the ZRP, as the premier institution for enforcing the law and dictates of the Constitution in what should be a non-partisan manner, for exhibiting partiality through its targeting of and clamping down on opposition political party leaders and perceived voices of political dissent.
The Forum reiterates that civil and political rights are guaranteed under the Constitution as encapsulated under section 67 of the Constitution, wherein every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to make political choices freely. During the 3rd cycle of Universal Periodical Review peer evaluation, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told the Committee Against Torture that Zimbabwe did not ratify the convention because it has domestic laws that adequately provide for anti-torture legislation. It is the Forum’s position that this stance is manifestly inaccurate as the legal framework governing the criminal justice system in the country does not have the definition of torture or any definition that comes closer to criminalising acts of torture, inhuman, cruel, and degrading treatment
It is against this backdrop that the Forum urgently calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to take steps to fulfill its obligations arising out of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to respect, promote and protect fundamental human rights and show this commitment to fulfilling these obligations by:
- speaking out and condemning all acts of violence in the country.
- ensuring that the Independent Complaints Mechanism Bill is passed into law without delay.
- launching immediate investigations into the allegations of human rights violations being perpetrated by members of the police and taking appropriate action where it is necessary;
- creating a professional, impartial and accountable police force in Zimbabwe by ensuring that the ZRP immediately stops perpetrating human rights violations including but not limited to beatings, excessive use of force, torture, and the intimidation of civilians;
- urgently enacting an independent complaints law and establish the independent complaints mechanism, required by the Constitution to ensure that perpetrators of violence are investigated and prosecuted fully and that victims and survivors of violence receive adequate compensation and rehabilitation, and
- ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)