Rights abuses escalate ahead of 2018 polls

HARARE - Zimbabwe is experiencing a worrying rise in rights violations and arbitrary arrests ahead of the 2018 elections, a human rights group said.

This comes as scores of anti-government protesters have been jailed — in an apparent move by President Robert Mugabe’s regime to quash the demonstrations — while many were injured in political skirmishes over the weekend.

“The weekend of September 24-25, 2016 witnessed more human rights violations, politically-motivated injury of people by militia and mass arrests and detentions by the police,” Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) said in a statement.

“ZimRights cautions the authorities on the consequences of the continued . . . breakdown of the rule of law and trampling of human rights by State actors in Zimbabwe,” the association said.

Over the weekend, political violence flared in Guruve, with a group of suspected Zanu PF youths alleged to have assaulted officials from the Joice Mujuru-led Zimbabwe People First (ZPF).

The incident — which happened at Dunaventy Farm in Guruve, a plot owned by ZPF supporter, Obert Mutasa — left many of the victims with gashing wounds.

Earlier, Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) president, Alistar Pfunye and 18 others were arrested and detained when police stormed and disrupted the organisation’s peaceful meeting in Mutare on Saturday, ZimRights said.

Zinasu was holding its General Council — a meeting of student leaders from across the country to discuss tertiary students’ welfare — as stipulated in the union’s constitution.

Also, Zinasu’s gender secretary, Carol Gauti, yesterday alleged that the union’s secretary for education and research, Thamsanqa Ndlovu, and MDC’s student council president, Steven Chuma, had gone missing.

The students reportedly hiked a lift, a white Noah vehicle, in Mutare on their way to Bulawayo at 8pm on Sunday and later made a panic call before abruptly going off-line.

ZimRights said government must bear the responsibility for stopping the human rights violations, alleging that perpetrators of the unconstitutional actions were either State actors or people aligned to the political party.

“The arrests, detention and abductions of students who were conducting a peaceful meeting to discuss their welfare violated constitutional rights that the government should protect such as the freedom of assembly and association, right to liberty, and right to personal security,” the association said.

It added that those who perpetrated violence in Guruve should be immediately arrested and brought to book.

“ZimRights is worried by the steady rise in trampling of human rights and political violence against opposition supporters ahead of the 2018 elections, which increasingly poses a significant threat to peace.

“The political leaders must clearly condemn violence by their supporters.”

The human rights group’s concerns come as anti-government activist — who once staged a one-man show in protest against Mugabe — Sylvanos Mudzvova was recently reportedly abducted and tortured.

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