‘I am hiding like a rat’: Zimbabwean Government accused of arresting opposition and activists

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Zimbabwe’s military and police are arresting scores of opposition party members and activists after authorities thwarted an anti-government protest last week, according to rights groups.

More than 60 people had been arrested in the continuing clampdown, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is providing lawyers for the arrested people.

Last week, internationally known author Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested for a peaceful protest and spent a night in police cells before being released on bail.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC Alliance, said dozens of its officials have been arrested or have gone into hiding.

If state agents did not find the person they wanted to arrest, they often vandalised their homes and harassed their relatives, opposition spokesman Tendai Biti said.

Human rights groups have accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration of clamping down on dissent under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown rules.

However, the Zimbabwean police and Government officials have repeatedly denied allegations of human rights abuses, saying those arrested or being sought by the police were inciting people to revolt against Mr Mnangagwa’s Government.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa leaves the polling station after casting his vote
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (centre) and his government have been accused of human rights abuses.(AP: Jerome Delay)

On Monday, a judge postponed until Thursday a bail hearing for Hopewell Chin’ono, an investigative journalist who has been in jail for two weeks on accusations of mobilising the foiled protests.

Another investigative journalist, Mdudzuzi Mathuthu, prominent for reporting on alleged government corruption linked to purchases of COVID-19 personal protective equipment and drugs, is in hiding.

“Journalism is just a job, but in Zimbabwe it can be a matter of life and death.

“They have not only come just after me, but my family as well.”

The ongoing arrests were “worrying”, said Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa Dewa Mavhinga.

A truck carrying police enters a neighbourhood in Harare, Friday, July, 31, 2020.
Human rights groups say military and the police have been arresting critics of the Zimbabwe Government.(AP: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Mr Mavhinga said students had been arrested for simply walking in their neighbourhoods with a Zimbabwean flag or tweeting about Zimbabwe’s deepening economic and political problems.

“Those who protested on Friday did so in small groups, yet activists are still being hunted down, it shows lack of respect for the right to peacefully demonstrate.”

Mr Mnangagwa, who had been Robert Mugabe’s deputy, promised “a flowering of democracy” when he took over after a coup, but critics say his rule has been rife with abuses.



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