The Southern Africa Development Community Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO) has noted with great concern the dire situation in Zimbabwe following last week’s protests which resulted in loss of life, injury of civilians and extensive damage to infrastructure.
The three day demonstrations, were ignited by a fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Ms Hlobisile Nxumalo, president of SADC-CNGO said there is need for the nation’s authorities to address the issue as a matter of urgency and do so in an inclusive manner.
“Citizens have a constitutional right to protest,” she noted.
“We express our displeasure with the heavy-handed response by the security services (ZRP, CIO and ZNA) that claimed the lives of at least 12 civilians and a police officer in Bulawayo and Harare. These injustices included the torture of innocent civilians and the wanton arrest of over 700 citizens without due regard to criminal procedure”.
She added: “Reports on human rights abuses by the country’s security forces on ordinary men, women and minors raises concern over the government’s commitment to constitutional order and respect of the rule of law. However we do not condone destruction of property and looting that characterised the demonstrations in some areas.”
Nxumalo said the council condemns denial by the country’s leadership and security forces’ involvement in the deaths, injuries and victimisation of the people involved in the protests.
“The security forces have alleged that those people seen in army and police uniforms brandishing guns, battering and shooting at ordinary citizens are criminals who stole their uniforms. This puts into question the integrity of the security service sector and amply demonstrates the government’s lack of commitment to protect its citizens. We implore that all those who victimised ordinary citizens be held accountable for their actions.”
Nxumalo said the shutdown of internet services resulted in Zimbabweans being denied the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution and in other regional and international instruments.
The SADC council limplored the Zanu PF led government to uphold human rights and allow peaceful demonstrations within the confines of the law, respect and uphold the rule of law , allow freedom of expression and right to information as provided for in the constitution and implement national dialogue involving political parties, religious and civil leaders for nation building.