The Movement for Democratic Change Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa insists that international human rights organizations should investigate the abduction, torture and sexual abuse of three party activists by suspected state security agents amid claims by the government that their disappearance two weeks ago resembles previous incidents.
In a statement, the MDC Alliance said only independent organizations, including the United Nations, can reveal what happened to Harare West lawmaker Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, who were abducted while they were staging a protest with other party activists pressing the government to provide food for some households during the nation’s coronavirus COVID-19 lockddown.
The MDC Alliance said it is dismayed by the recent “cynical statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sibusiso Moyo that attempted to cast doubt on the abductions, and callously insinuates they were ”stage-managed-theatre” while at the same time claiming that the government takes the allegations seriously and is investigating them. Such reckless and dismissive statements by the executive severely undermine the credibility of any regime-led investigations.
“The regime’s disingenuous statement comes after the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a constitutional body mandated to receive and investigate complaints of violation of human rights from the public, confirmed the abductions, torture, and sexual abuses, as fact.”
The MDC Alliance noted that the abuses that the three women suffered are a violation of the Zimbabwe Constitution, which strictly prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and guarantees personal security and dignity of all citizens.
“Zimbabwe is party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) which guarantees women’s rights, their participation in political processes, protection against violence and punishment of perpetrators. In addition the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“The ordeal of the three women are also a violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention Against Torture, Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The party said it has recorded 49 abductions of its members since August, 2018. “Invariably, all these abductions were carried out by armed men with rifles who targeted victims for being opponents of the government. So far, inexplicably, there has been no single arrest of any of the abductors. The abductors continue to act with impunity. Similarly, the perpetrators of the 1 August 2018 killings in Harare of six individuals in post-election protests were never prosecuted despite recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission.”
It also cited the killing of several people in January, 2019, by Zimbabwe’s security forces as another case of alleged state-sponsored human rights violations.
In a statement released Monday evening, Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo said the government is fully investigating the alleged abductions, noting that indications are that the disappearance of the three women is similar to previous incidents.
He said the government is worried about the abductions, saying the allegations are grave in that they involve alleged abuse of the rights of the girl child, a vulnerable group of our society which President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is on record as resolutely promoting and protecting.
“While the relevant agencies of the State are fully seized with the matter and are already investigating all aspects of the allegations made by the three ladies in question — including the circumstances surrounding the unauthorised staging of a demonstration during the national lockdown, in deliberate violation of the SI 77 of 2020 it is most disconcerting to note some sections of the media and some within the diplomatic community appear to have already concluded that the Zimbabwean Government was responsible for the alleged abuse.
“Surely they would better serve the cause of justice by allowing the law to take its course and to await the outcome of the investigation rather than jump to conclusions or wantonly ascribe culpability.”
He claimed that there could be a third force involved in the abductions, which coincided with the convening of the Southern African Development Community Troika Summit last week in Harare.
He said, “Although Government has refrained from drawing its own hasty conclusions, it is difficult to ignore the glaring similarities which exist between this recent alleged incident and several such allegations in the past, which have all borne similar hallmarks of stage-managed theatre designed to soil the image of the Government and indeed the nation and to divert attention from the ongoing implosion and ever-shifting allegiances within some political formations in the opposition.
“As has been the case with past alleged abductions, the current dramatic episode just happened to coincide with major international and regional events — the convening of the SADC Troika summit and the presence in Harare of several regional Heads of State and the impending Sadc Council Ministers virtual meeting. Government will, however, await the outcome of the investigation before drawing any conclusions. Investigations will be conducted with the prime objective of exposing the involvement of a possible third force.”
Mamombe, Chimbiri, and Marova were initially arrested by the police at a roadblock on the 13th of May and taken to Harare Central Police Station where, the MDC Alliance claims, were then handed over to their abductors.
“The arrest of the three was confirmed by the national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi to state-run newspaper, The Herald and the privately owned Daily News on the 14th of May 2020. In addition, the vehicle that was being driven by Joana Mamombe at the point of arrest is still parked at Harare Central Police Station. The MDC Alliance is extremely concerned that the Police Forensic Department took inappropriate pictures of the three women for the purposes of ‘investigations’ but the photos were leaked and found their way on social media, thereby further victimising and traumatising the victims.”
Nyathi was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls on his mobile phone.