Amnesty International says charges laid against three Movement for Democratic Change Alliance activists, who were allegedly abducted recently by suspected state security agents, beaten up and sexually abused, as “a travesty and ploy to intimidate the opposition”.
Responding to the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s decision Tuesday to charge Harare West lawmaker Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova for participating in peaceful protests against hunger during the lockdown period last month, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda said expectations were that the government was supposed to carry out investigations on their alleged abductions and not prosecute them.
Mwananyanda said, “Joana Mamombe, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are victims of police brutality, sexual assault and enforced disappearance. Before charging them for allegedly breaking the lockdown rules, authorities must investigate the crimes against them. The charges against these three women are a travesty and ploy to intimidate the opposition and send a chilling message that anyone who challenges the government is putting themselves at risk.
“Zimbabwean authorities should hold to account those suspected to be responsible for the enforced disappearance and sexual assault of the three female opposition leaders, rather than intimidating them with criminal charges. The charges should be dropped immediately.”
The three are facing charges of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence and breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in Section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and violating lockdown regulations.
Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova disappeared after they were arrested at a roadblock in Warren Park guarded by police and soldiers on May 13th .
They were part of a demonstration organized against the authorities’ failure to provide social protection for the poor during the COVID-19 lockdown. They were later dropped in Bindura after they were tortured and sexually abused.
Information Secretary Nick Mangwana was not available for comment.