Human rights groups demand Zimbabwe stop violent repression of protesters and respect fundamental freedoms

  • Security forces violently repress protests, killing at least eight and injuring more than a dozen after using live ammunition against demonstrators
  • Hundreds of protesters arrested during a three-day national shutdown called to protest massive fuel price hikes, with reports of security forces assaulting citizens in their homes
  • Leading human rights defender Evan Mawarire among those arrested and charged with public violence
  • Authorities shut down social media sites and the internet, only partially restoring online access after the end of the strike action
  • Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Civil Society alliance, CIVICUS call on South Africa and the African Union to act to prevent more violence

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, have called on the authorities in Zimbabwe to exercise restraint and desist from using violence against peaceful protesters who have been demonstrating against a massive increase in fuel prices.

Security forces used brute force against Zimbabweans who took to the streets during a three-day national strike to protest President Emerson Mnangagwa’s decision to raise the fuel price by more than 150%. This astronomical price hike would see the cost of petrol increase from US$ 1.4 per litre to US$ 3.31 per litre and diesel from US$ 1.36 to US$ 3.31 per litre. The national protests come amidst a deterioration in economic conditions, fuel shortages and ever-increasing prices of food and basic necessities.

To protest Mnangagwa’s announcement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and activists called for a national shutdown of businesses, schools and places of work.

In response, security forces used live ammunition on protesting crowds while in the Matabeleland region, in particular, soldiers reportedly invaded protesters’ homes and shot occupants. Yesterday, army and police officers surrounded the home of human rights defender and leader of the #ThisFlag movement, Evan Mawarire, before arresting and detaining him. Mawarire has been charged with inciting public violence through social media and is yet to appear in court.

Reports from the ground indicate that armed police, soldiers and masked men have caused mayhem as they kidnapped, harassed, intimidated and attacked citizens, while the streets remained heavily militarized.

“We are alarmed by incidents of extreme violence being reported, which include shooting at peaceful protestors and forcefully removing people from their homes. This is a gross violation of people’s right to organise and freely express themselves, said Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

“Zimbabwean authorities must immediately stop using violence against its citizens and withdraw the military from the streets. We urge the South African government to intervene immediately to contain this crisis. The African Union must act with urgency to ensure that peace returns to Zimbabwe and hold those involved in the killing and harming of civilians accountable for their actions,” John said.

“We are concerned about threats targeting leaders of civil society, specifically Crisis in Zimbabwe Action leaders and its Secretariat who are falsely accused of hosting numerous meetings with a plan to unseat the Mnangagwa administration.” Said Tabani Moyo, Spokesperson for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

“This statement is quite unfortunate as the public space is awash with our position calling for an inclusive national dialogue with all stakeholders.” Moyo continued.

In a move reminiscent of the manner in which the previous government of President Robert Mugabe often operated, authorities shut down social media sites and completely cut off access to internet during the mass action. Online access has now reportedly been partially restored but social networks remains inaccessible.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, has rated civic space – the space for civil society – in Zimbabwe as “Repressed”. This means civil society is significantly constrained and active individuals and civil society members who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, imprisonment, injury or death.

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Teldah Mawarire

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