Amnesty International has called on the African Union and the United Nations to send monitors to investigate human rights violations committed by Zimbabwe’s security forces during the current transitional period. This follows the arrest of human rights activists and Roy Bennett, a prominent Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) politician.
“A number of events that have taken place since the swearing in of a new government in Zimbabwe suggest that there is a force within the Zimbabwean security forces, that continues ordering violations of human rights as a method of dealing with people they do not like,” said Simeon Mawanza Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe expert
On 14 February police in Bulawayo arrested 10 activists after they participated in a peaceful protest. Seven women from the activist organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and three men from Radio Dialogue are being held at Bulawayo Central police station. One of the women in custody is a breast-feeding mother and has been separated from her child which is now in the care of relatives. They have not been charged and their lawyer has been denied access.
The organization’s call also follows the arrest of MDC politician, Roy Bennett, on Friday 13 February at an airport in Harare by police officers from the Law and Order Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Roy Bennett is being held at Mutare Central police station and is being charged under section 61 of the repressive Public Order and Security Act: conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services. Police are reported to have applied and obtained an order to detain him for another 48 hours. Roy Bennett is meant to be sworn in as Deputy Agriculture Minister some time this week.
“The arrest of Roy Bennett, a high profile figure, on what appear to be politically motivated charges reveals the level of challenges facing the unity government and demonstrates the urgent need to have an international presence to oversee the transitional process,” said Simeon Mawanza.
Police have failed to take Roy Bennett and the Bulawayo activists to court today. The detainees are likely to spend more time in custody.
“Amnesty International considers all those arrested for exercising their internationally guaranteed rights to peaceful protest and freedom of association to be prisoners of conscience and therefore calls for their immediate and unconditional release,” said Simeon Mawanza.
The names of the women activists from WOZA who are being held at Bulawayo Central police station are: Barbara Bepe, Patience Mpofu, Praise Mlangeni, Gladys Dube, Shingirai Mupani, Virginia Sithole, and Peace Mthethwa. Three men from Radio Dialogue, Thandazani Nkomo, Zenzele Ndebele and Oscar Hungwe, were also arrested at the same time.
Radio Dialogue is a non-profit making community radio station aspiring to broadcast to the community of Bulawayo and surrounding areas. It aims to provide a channel for debate and information sharing on economic, political, social, cultural and developmental issues. Radio Dialogue has been denied a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. While it awaits the time that community broadcasters such as Radio Dialogue are granted licences, it functions as a recording and production studio so that when such a time comes it is immediately ready to go on air.