Leave human rights activists alone

HARARE - Yesterday, police arrested two caretakers at the Prime Minister’s communications office at Bath Road, Spiwe Vera and Elizabeth Banda.

Police detectives picked up the two at the Avondale office, where four other aides to Tsvangirai were arrested on Sunday and charged on Tuesday with breaching the official secrets act, impersonating the police and illegal possession of documents for criminal use.

The arrests at the PM’s offices come as authorities intensify raids on a series of high profile human rights and pro-democracy organisations, banning radios and restricting space for political opposition.

Leading human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa has also been held in custody despite a High Court judgement ordering her release.

The crackdown has set an ominous tone for human rights and political freedoms in Zimbabwe — two of the main goals of an inclusive government formed by archrivals President Robert  Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after disputed elections in 2008.

The concerns triggered by the latest crackdown have been exacerbated by the intensification of arrests on the PM’s office.

It an all-too familiar script, first it’s the arrests, then the proscription of opposition meetings and abductions.

It is clear that our beloved country is now trending back towards being a police State.

Recent developments clearly show that free political activity in this country is under arrest.

These unwarranted disruptions expose the partisan nature of the police force.

This crackdown calls into question the legitimacy of the upcoming election, which cannot be deemed to be free and fair if they are sullied by such bull-boy tactics.

Elements in the system continue to demonstrate a clear partisan bias in arrests, detentions, and investigations — or the lack of such actions — depending on one’s political orientation.

We are seeing a clear pattern of harassment of the PM’s office and civil society organisations through spurious charges, extended detentions, and confiscation of materials that impede their activities.

These patterns demonstrate clear efforts to manipulate the rule of law and the electoral playing field.

It is difficult to consider the electoral environment conducive to a process consistent with Sadc election standards or that yields a clear and legitimate winner.

We implore the PM to confront the situation directly and take all necessary measures to protect the vulnerable from the powerful.

Failure to do so will be leading the people of Zimbabwe as sacrificial lambs to slaughter.

We refuse to walk that road ever again. - Staff Writer

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