A leading U.S rights advocacy group has called upon Co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone to investigate allegations that Bulawayo police recently harassed Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists and used tribal invectives against them.
In a statement, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights condemned the incident, urging Harare to protect the rights of all citizens.
WOZA claims that during one of its recent protests, police rounded up its members and ordered them to stop speaking in Ndebele saying all Ndebeles had been killed during the infamous Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s.
The Kennedy Center said: “These increasing reports of both the police and politicians in Zimbabwe using tribal and ethnic rhetoric to justify violence against law-abiding, peaceful citizens are of serious concern.”
It said the government must ensure that the rights of every individual, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, are respected in an environment free of violence.
It urged Zimbabwe's inclusive government to act immediately and responsibly to halt the unacceptable behavior that has been routinely displayed by the police.
“We respectfully remind the government of its explicit obligations under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), notably Article VII on the Promotion of Equality, National Healing, Cohesion and Unity, where it states (that) the government will ‘ensure equal treatment of all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and place of origin and will strive to create an environment of tolerance and respect among Zimbabweans and that all citizens are treated with dignity and decency’."
On Thursday, about 300 WOZA protestors peacefully marched to the Southampton House Police Station to register an official complaint, detailing the unabated mistreatment of its members that included a brutal mass arrest on November 13.
During the November 13 altercation, on-duty ZRP officers directly referenced the Gukurahundi massacres and ordered WOZA members not to speak in their native Ndebele language.
The complaint called upon the ZRP to promptly investigate the matter and discipline responsible officers accordingly.
Upon delivering the complaint Thursday, WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams and Program Coordinator Magodonga Mahlangu, were arrested and later released without being charged.
It is also reported that police unduly harassed and inflicted violence on WOZA members as they knelt in prayer directly outside the police station doors.
The women’s lobby group staged another demonstration Thursday in Bulawayo demanding that the police should investigate the matter and take action against the officers who made those remarks, which have been condemned by many organizations and people as irresponsible and insensitive.
Williams told VOA Studio 7 that the verbal abuse used by police is unjustifiable.
More than 20,000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces were reportedly killed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade after the national army crack unit, linked to Zanu PF, was deplored in the 1980s to flush out so-called dissidents in the then PF Zapu stronghold.
PF Zapu, then led by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, was seen by President Robert Mugabe’s party as a stumbling block for the creation of a one-party state in Zimbabwe, a political philosophy which was modeled along the lines of moribund concepts of Marxism and Leninism.