PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has been struck with another blow following a request by the United Nations human rights team of experts to visit Zimbabwe to assess the state of human rights deterioration.
UN experts called on government to urgently cease all abductions, torture and hold perpetrators to account as a matter of urgency.
The organ said the urgent call comes after three female opposition activists – Member of Parliament Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova – were stopped at a police checkpoint in Harare and subsequently abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted.
After almost 48 hours, the trio were dumped in a marketplace and immediately hospitalised to be treated for the injuries they sustained while they were abducted before being charged with violating COVID-19 regulations on public gatherings.
“The charges against the three women should be dropped,” the experts said. “Targeting peaceful dissidents, including youth leaders, in direct retaliation for the exercise of their freedom of association, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression is a serious violation of human rights law.”
The development comes against a background where Mnangagwa administration has instituted investigations into the trio’s abductions but early findings by government officials hint that the trio stage managed the abductions to gain political mileage.
However, the feedback seems not to impress the experts who expressed that such heinous acts are not an isolated instance since in 2019 alone 49 cases of abductions and torture were reported in Zimbabwe, without investigations leading to perpetrators being held to account.
“We urge the government to allow official visits of UN human rights experts with a view to assessing the human rights situation in the country,” the experts said.
Mnangagwa has been accused by critics locally and abroad for presiding over a systematic and brutal crackdown on human rights, including the violent suppression of protests and a witch-hunt against anyone who dared challenge his government since his rise to power.
The administration has also been accused of silencing dissent and blocking all demonstrations perceived to be anti-government.
Amnesty International documented at least 15 killings by police when protests erupted on 14 January 2019, sparked by the announcement of fuel price hikes. The state carried out mass arrests which saw hundreds of people being arrested on charges including public violence.
By the end of April, close to 400 people were convicted by the courts, with most of them through hastily conducted trials.
Soonafter elections in August 2018 around seven citizens were shot down in protests called by the opposition against a delay in announcing results.
To date, no arrests have been made on the perpetrators of all these rights abuses causing many to speculate that government has a hand in it.