Zimbabwe Targets Civil Society Leaders

June 3, 2019

The World Movement condemns the recent detention of seven civil society leaders in Zimbabwe, as part of an ongoing crackdown on the rights of Zimbabwean citizens and civil society members. The individuals were arbitrarily charged with “subverting a constitutionally elected government” for attending a workshop on non-violent protest in the Maldives. These arrests directly violate laws enshrined in Zimbabwe’s own constitution, which the new government has promised to uphold. Join us in calling for these absurd charges to be dropped and for the government to cease its continued violation of basic human rights.

On May 20, 2019, five activists—Tatenda Mombeyarara, George Makoni, Nyasha Frank Mpahlo, Gamuchirai Mukura, and Farirai Gumbonzvanda—were detained at Robert Mugabe International Airport upon their return from a capacity-building conference on peaceful protest in the Maldives. On May 27, airport security detained two additional activists—Stabile Dewah and Rita Nyamupinga—on the same grounds.

Since May 20, authorities have searched the homes and workplaces of both Gamuchirai Mukura and Nyasha Frank Mpahlo. The first five activists remain detained in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison while awaiting the results of their bail hearing, which was delayed from May 31 to June 7. Information about hearings for the remaining two activists is not yet available, but they remain in detention.

In addition to increasing arbitrary arrests, human rights organizations in Zimbabwe have expressed fear over the government’s increasing use of media outlets to publish “falsehoods against civil society organisations in a deliberate effort to criminalise the work of civil society, fuel hate and undermine the integrity of the persons who work with and in civil society.” These efforts noticeably increased on May 15, only eight days before the recent arrests occurred. The World Movement is gravely concerned about the government’s use of media to incite hatred against human rights defenders.

This recent repression occurs in the context of a wider crackdown against dissent in Zimbabwe. On January 12, 2019, the government of Zimbabwe announced a fuel price hike of 150% to generate revenue for the government, which is currently facing a severe budget deficit. In response, widespread protests broke out, and labor unions announced their intention to lead a nationwide, three-day strike. The resulting crackdown saw 12 deaths and the beginning of coordinated repression against citizens who speak out. A number of high-profile activists were detained at the time, including Pastor Evan Mawawire and trade union leaders Peter Mutasa and Japhet Moyo.

We join civil society around the world in calling for the release of all imprisoned human rights defenders and for an end to the government’s sustained repression. The government should be reminded of its duty to uphold the constitution of Zimbabwe and its responsibility to abide by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The international community will not allow these severe violations to pass with silence—join us in standing in solidarity with civil society in Zimbabwe,