Police in Zimbabwe have charged three MDC Alliance activists – Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Nestai Marova – for attending a gathering in contravention of some of the country’s criminal laws, including violating regulations compelling citizens to stay at home under the current coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown.
In a tweet, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is representing Harare West lawmaker Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova who were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by suspected state security agents two weeks ago, said the three are facing charges of violating Section 37 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
The tweet read in part, “On 26 May, @PoliceZimbabwe have charged @JoanaMamombe, @ceechimbiri2 & @MarovaNetsai of @MDCAllianceZW with Sec 37 of Criminal Code gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of peace and Sec 5(3) & (1) of #COVID19 Regs (Regulations) SI99 of 20 on gatherings.
“Allegations are that the incident took place on 13 May in Warren Park. The charges come at a time when @JoanaMamombe, @ceechimbiri2 @marova are receiving treatment following their abduction, disappearance & torture on 13 May. No arrests have been made to date on the enforced disappearance, torture, cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment.”
The three were seized by unknown assailants while they were staging a protest in Warren Park, demanding that the government should help starving families during the current lockdown.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls on his mobile phone.
Reacting to the charges faced by its members, the MDC Alliance said it “strongly condemns the callous and insensitive actions of the police in charging our Youth Assembly leaders Honourable Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova with contravention of Section 37 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act as well as Section 5(3) and (1)of Statutory Instrument 99 /20 the Covid 19 Regulations.”
The MDC Alliance said the arrest of the three was ill-timed.
“The three Youth Assembly leaders were recently abducted and brutally tortured and have not recovered from their ordeal and it is our considered view that it is the height of Insanity to even contemplate let alone actually preferring charges against them at this stage. The whole drama would be comical if it was not so tragic and it is only despotic countries such as Zimbabwe where victims such as Hon. Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova, are not only denied justice but are in fact further traumatised by inopportune persecutions in the guise of the law said to be taking its course.”
The MDC Alliance said Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was supposed to address the violation of the women’s rights and not persecute the three activists.
“As the MDC Alliance, we again exhort the illegitimate regime for once to do the right thing and own up to its national and international obligations and uphold the Rule of Law and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to book .It is disingenuous to suggest that the State had no hand in the abduction when Hon. Mamombe's car is still parked at the Police Station while the Police Spokesperson confirmed to both the State Media And the Private Media that the trio had indeed been arrested.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo says the government is investigating the disappearance and alleged torture of the women. He noted that the alleged abductions were similar to previous incidents in which some MDC activists disappeared and resurfaced later claiming that they were victims of state abductions.
However, Moyo said the government wants the police to carry out full investigations before making any concrete conclusions over the alleged abductions.