Rights groups slam State heavy-handedness

HARARE - Civil society organisations and political parties have condemned State security agents for using high-handed tactics to put down protests.

This comes after the so-called “shutdown” entered its third day yesterday, with workers and general members of the public demanding better living conditions.

The protests were sparked by a 150 percent increase in fuel prices.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and social media movement #ThisFlag led by Pastor Evan Mawarire called for the crippling stay-away, which started in earnest on Monday.

Since Monday, roads have been barricaded by stones with burning tyres on most highways and residential areas, making it impossible for people to navigate their way. 

People walked several kilometres to their residential places, after commuter omnibuses were barred from ferrying passengers by furious youths, who demanded payment from motorists for smooth passage.

In some areas, the protests turned violent, with residents burning cars and looting, resulting in a heavy-handed response from State security apparatus.

The National Patriotic Front (NPF), through its spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire, yesterday condemned the response by government, saying in terms of the country’s Constitution, people are entitled to protest.

“The NPF wishes to register disquiet over reports of loss of life in Harare, Chitungwiza and other parts of the country in the ongoing demonstrations against the debilitating economic decay bedevilling our country.

“The NPF believes in human rights, constitutionalism, rule of law and the sanctity of human life and therefore condemns the loss of lives we have been witnessing whenever citizens have sought to exercise their right to peacefully demonstrate, as enshrined in Section 59 of our national Constitution,” Mawarire said.

At the same time, Generational Consensus, a social movement group, said justice should be served for those that were killed by State agents in cold blood.

“The barbarism displayed by the State institutions, police and army is another indictment on the role of the State in preventing violence in our country. 

“Barely six months after the fateful August 1, 2018 killings of unarmed civilians by the army, more killings and assaults have been committed again.

“Use of live ammunition on unarmed civilians cannot be justified. 

“We thus urge the regional and international community to hold the Zimbabwean State accountable.

“We also urge the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate the murders and hold perpetrators accountable,” the  organisation said.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition also attacked the government’s use of force to quell the protests.

“We condemn in the strongest of terms the heavy-handed approach by government in dealing with the demonstrators.

“The move by the government to deploy armed police and soldiers against citizens exercising their democratic right to protest should be condemned in the strongest of terms.

“It is quite evident that the government has resorted to military tactics in dealing with innocent civilians whose grievances are genuine. In this regard, we reiterate our demand for demilitarisation of the Zimbabwean State and a return to constitutional order,” the organisation said.

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