UN slams NGOs crackdown
HARARE – The Office of the Commissioner on Human Rights (OCHR) in Geneva,
Switzerland has slammed escalating repression of human rights defenders in
Zimbabwe ahead of elections.
OCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said the commission noted with concern
the increase in arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment of human
rights activists and innocent citizens.
“We condemn recent attacks against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe,
including arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment,” OCHR said.
It cited the arrest of Okay Machisa, the director of Zimbabwe Human Rights
Association (ZimRights) and chairperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on
January 14 for allegedly publishing false statements prejudicial to the
State, fraud and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter
Machisa handed himself to the police accompanied by his lawyer, and remains
“In a previous incident, ZimRights education programmes manager, Leo
Chamahwinya, and ZimRights local chapter chairperson, Dorcas Shereni, were
arrested by the police on December 13, 2012. They were both denied bail by
the High Court and remain in detention.
“We are concerned about the crackdown on non-governmental organisations and
dissenting voices seen as critical of Robert Mugabe’s rule and apparently
politically-motivated prosecutions, ahead of the elections which are
expected to take place later this year.”
The OCHR report was issued at a time when the Zanu PF Masvingo provincial
governor, Titus Maluleke on Thursday issued fresh threats, that he would ban
civic organisations he accuses of interfering with the electoral process
ahead of the next general elections expected this year.
Maluleke, who banned 29 NGO’s last year accusing them of refusing to comply
with government regulations to register, summoned 45 local civic
organisations operating in Masvingo province and threatened to ban them if
they interfered with the elections.
Maluleke was accompanied by State security agents.
However, the minister of Labour and Social Services, Paurina Mpariwa has
said Maluleke’s threats are illegal and the NGOs should ignore them.
The OCHR said it supports the work of the United Nations human rights
mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set
up for monitoring State parties’ compliance with international human rights
treaties and promote the right to development.
Navanethem Pillay, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights was in
Zimbabwe last year when Zanu PF’s desperate push for early elections that
year suffered a major dent when she warned that holding the polls before
reforms would be “suicidal”.
“Unless the parties agree quickly on some key major reforms and there is a
distinct shift in attitude, the next election which is due sometime in the
coming year could turn into a repeat of the 2008 elections which resulted in
rampant politically-motivated human rights abuses including killings,
torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, displacements and other
violations,” she said last year during her visit.
“I believe it is essential that a satisfactory new constitution with an
entrenched Bill of Rights is put in place soon, so that the referendum to
confirm it and all the electoral reforms necessary for a peaceful, free and
fair election can be carried out before people go to the polls.”
“Realistically, this will take time, but it will be more important to get it
right than to rush the process,” she said, adding that the government must
give the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) more time to update the voters’
roll and supervise the referendum on the new constitution before holding
elections. – Staff Writer