«L’OBSERVATOIRE EL OBSERVATORIO pour la Protection des Défenseurs para la Protección de los Defensores de des Droits de l’Homme Derechos Humanos ...»
On February 1, 2007, at around 5 am, several police officers from the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station stormed into the house of Mr. Raymond Majongwe, Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ). His wife indicated that Mr. Majongwe had travelled out of Harare and could not possibly attend to them. The officers refused to heed to this information and continued to harass Mrs. Majongwe, threatening to arrest her and confiscate her identity documents. After protracted exchanges, the police officers left with a stern demand that Mr. Majongwe reports to the Harare Central Police Station at 8 a.m. without fail. No reasons were disclosed for their intention to question and obviously arrest him. Finally, Mr. Majongwe and his lawyers decided to report to the police station on February 5, 2007, fearing to be detained during the weekend.
On February 5, 2007, numerous soldiers arrived in a truck and a car in front of Mr. Raymond Majongwe’s house.
The engine-turned vehicles stayed parked over 20 minutes with voices being heard in the background. Blinding lights were also directed at the house.
In the past, Mr. Raymond Majongwe has been arrested, detained, beaten, prosecuted (but not convicted) on numerous occasions for engaging in peaceful protests for workers’ rights and democracy in Zimbabwe. Throughout the country, in particular in rural areas, PTUZ members have been regularly harassed.
For instance, on February 2, 2007, Messrs. Charles Kaguramhamba, Henry Chinorumba and P. Dube, three teachers and PTUZ members, were arrested at the Gaza Secondary School in Chipinge, for having organised a sit in calling for better work conditions of work and salaries. They were released on the same day from the Chipinge Police Station.
Furthermore, on February 14, 2007, police picked up Messrs. Raymond Majongwe and McDonald Mangauzani, founder and national Treasurer of PTUZ, as they held a meeting with other teachers at Haig Park Primary School on allegations of holding an illegal gathering and detained them at Harare Central Police Station overnight. This meeting took place in the framework of a national strike called by PTUZ in order to press the Government to increase the salaries of teachers. Police ferried them to court the next day, only to be informed that prosecutors had declined to vet the docket because it had been presented to them after 11.30 am. In the circumstances, they could only be returned to holding cells but it emerged that the detainees were booked out of their cells that same evening and were to be handed over to five security agents. Mr. Otto Saki, lawyer from ZHLR, came at the central police station, resulting in the release of Messrs. Majongwe and Mangauzani into his custody by the officers.
While in police custody, Mr. Mangauzani was severely tortured by State agents who accused him and other union leaders of inciting teachers to go on strike over low salaries. He was also denied access to medical treatment by police even when it was proved to the law enforcement agents that Mangauzani was on special medical treatment for hypertension. After his release, Mr. Mangauzani’s health condition continued to deteriorate until his death on March 20, 2007.
3. Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD)
The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) mainly engages on issues of trade, development and economic social and cultural rights in Zimbabwe. In the run up to the 2008 elections, the economic context has continued to create fertile grounds for authoritarian rule as more of the ordinary citizens have began to share and show feelings of discontent and rage over the prevailing economic mis-governance routed in infringement of human rights and absence of enabling constitutional framework. Consequently, members of coalitions such as ZIMCODD were not spared by government agents in an attempt to clamp down on dissenting voices.
Public meeting on debt and development in Zimbabwe See Observatory Urgent Appeals ZWE 001 / 0207 / OBS 014 and 014.1, issued respectively on February 2 and 7, 2007.
In May 2007, ZIMCODD organised a meeting at Royal Hotel in Bulawayo where their members and the public discussed the current economic situation in Zimbabwe. Two key members of ZIMCODD were very critical of government policy and as a result, were beaten by suspected intelligence agents severely for the comments they had made about the ruling party and its management of the economy. One of the victims was reportedly severely tortured with his face put down a toilet bowl and flashed over after the toilet had been used.
Refusal to attend the People’s Summit in Zambia - August 2007
During the SADC heads of States meeting in August 2007, a Peoples’ Summit was organised parallel to the meeting. ZIMCODD members planned to attend the summit, travelling by road through the boarder post of Chirundi. They carried along some materials on economic rights and development of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). While they were cleared on the Zimbabwe side, they were refused entry at the Zambia border [surprisingly after their passports had been stamped and cleared by the Zambia authorities]. When they demanded to know why they had been refused entry, the authorities claimed that the IEC materials carried “subversive” messages. They however refused to be deported, objecting that their passports be stamped “deported”. They were sent back to Zimbabwe where their leaders, including Mrs. Janet Mudzuiti, were interrogated by the Chirundi Police and detained for two days. They were later released with no charges laid on them. The bales of t-shirts and other IEC materials were confiscated and were never returned to them up until January 2008.
Even with such levels of intimidation, their members have hardened and continue to speak out, especially on the deteriorating economic situation as a key issue for the upcoming elections. Women participation however remains low largely because of their family obligations. The time occasionally sanctioned by the authorities to hold some of the rallies and meetings hinders their participation.
C. Cases of repression against journalists human rights defenders 1. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) The MISA Zimbabwe Chapter focuses primarily on the need to promote free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media as envisaged in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on promoting free and independent media. The chapter has grown since 1997 with about 320 members comprising media practitioners and media houses.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Zimbabwean Constitution. Under protection of freedom of expression, the constitution expressively states that: “Except with his own consent or by way of parental discipline, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions and to receive, and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence”33.
This provision notwithstanding, the space for free expression has continued to shrink in Zimbabwe largely through the use of repressive legislative pieces such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Privacy Act, the Interception of Communications Act and the Broadcasting Services Act as well as through administrative action especially by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
Members of MISA have continued to be intimidated by Government agents. Sometimes, their tools of work including in some instances destruction of offices - have been undertaken in order to prevent them from effectively performing their mandate and constitutional roles as journalists.
Although there were no journalists in detention by the time of the mission, there has been a pattern of arrest and detention of critical journalists. Many were released after a couple of days and charges dropped. This pattern normally serves to intimidate the journalists from speaking out and covering sensitive stories.
Article 21 (2) of the Zimbabwe Constitution Mr. Gift Phiri - The Zimbabwean34
One notable journalist Gift Phiri, a journalist with The Zimbabwean35 was arrested on April 1, 2007 in Sunningdale, by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), on allegations that he was a “petrol bomber” and taken to Harare Central Police Station. The police officers confiscated and seized his computer and cell phone and several floppy disks from his home. At Harare Police Station, Mr. Phiri was severely assaulted on two occasions by at least six police officers including Superintendent Tavaziva of CID Law and Order, using button sticks and baseball bat to strike his back and buttons while stepping on his head. During the assault, he was accused of working for the British and for a paper published in Britain and writing several articles that were falsehoods. Mr.
Gift Phiri was subsequently charged with practicing journalism without accreditation and made to sign a warned and cautioned statement in the absence of his lawyer. The matter was brought to court by the ZLHR and he was found not guilty.
Mr. Tsvangirai Mukwazhi
On March 11, 2007, Mr. Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested while trying to cover the planned Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting. He was detained at Machipisa Police station, where he was assaulted. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Tsvangirai Mukwazhi’s motor vehicle, camera, laptop and other property were taken into police custody. Mr. Mukwazhi was released after a High Court order according to which persons arrested on March 11 should be brought to court by 12 pm or be released. Lawyers from ZLHR sought to recover his property but were only able to recover his motor vehicle as the other property including laptop and camera have since gone missing while in police custody.
Mr. Tapiwa Chininga
On March 17, 2007, Mr. Tapiwa Chininga, a student journalist working with New Ziana, was arrested at Blue Base Police Post in Kuwadzana after asking two police officers politically questions that included: “Why were the police changing their way of policing and were now using guns and engaging in running battles with the public, which conduct never happened in the past?”; “Is the police are allowed to torture people, in light of what happened to Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC members while in police custody at Machipisa police station?” ;
“Why the police had denied the MDC the right to hold a rally at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfields in contempt and defiance of a High Court order allowing to do it?”.
After being assaulted by Constable Simbarashe Nengane, Mr. Tapiwa Chininga was charged under section 41 (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) for allegedly using “threatening abusive or insulting words” against the police officers. On March 30, 2007, criminal charges were withdrawn before plea with the State having the option to proceed by way of summons.
The attitude of the Government towards the opposition and independent journalism remains sharply intolerant, highly critical and punctuated with “hate speech”. It is feared that it will be again the case in the run up to the March 29, 2008 harmonised elections towards the media in covering stories and issues critical of State actions.
This context can only have a chilling effect and self-censorship amongst independent media. Women journalists like Mrs. Faith Zaba, now a media and public relations consultant since the closure of the Tribune where she had just been promoted to assistant editor and was the newspaper’s political editor, writes that: “working under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which makes one liable to a two year jail term if convicted under the law, some female journalists are opting to cover safe beats like health, entertainment and other social issues or going into public relations after college”.
Radio Dialogue is a community radio in Bulawayo, which was established in 2002. It aims at providing a channel of communication on economic, political, social, cultural and developmental issues that confront the community in Bulawayo.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has not yet invited applicants for community radio licenses, so Radio Dialogue does not have an operating license36. Therefore, the radio at present is simply a recording and production See Observatory Urgent Appeal ZWE 002 / 0507 / OBS 042, issued on May 4, 2007.