Stop harassing human rights activists


HARARE – Reports that police yesterday swooped on Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights) offices and took in for questioning director, Okay Machisa should have sent shivers down the spines of those who have given their lives to seeing a democratic Zimbabwe.

What really scares us is the realisation that this could be the beginning of scenes reminiscent of the 2008 bloody presidential run-off elections.

As the country hurtles towards another plebiscite and the political bloodhounds in our midst sharpen their teeth, the citizens of this beautiful country have reason to be very afraid.

Far from the posturing and screaming about peaceful co-existence and an election free of violence, this is scary.

Politicians are masters of doublespeak and its now showing.

Human rights activists have a huge role to play in any society let alone in a divided and polarised nation like ours.

President Robert Mugabe and his partners in the GNU should not just talk about the need for a free and fair election.

They should make sure actions by their apparatus on the ground does not reflect the exact opposite of what they are saying in public. Zimbabweans are not stupid and can read between the lines.

Civil society workers do not own guns and are no threat to national security and sovereignty.

We need an electorate that is educated and informed before they make fundamental decisions in any democracy and denying space to human rights organisations and activists is counterproductive.

We condemn the state for such heavy-handedness. This is a clear statement that whatever reforms that have been negotiated by the moribund Government of National Unity (GNU) in the past four years are nothing but a waste of resources.

The leopard has not changed its spots.

Sadc and the African Union who are guarantors to the GPA which brought about the coalition government should take note and call for not only restraint but also the unconditional operation of civic society organisations.

We are tempted to question if the executive no longer has its shoulders on the levers of power.

Those that have called for security sector re-alignment have reason to heighten their calls.

Zimbabweans deserve better and every other organisation that enhances democracy should be welcome to operate without fear or favour in the country if the forthcoming elections are to have the legitimacy that our leaders have lacked for the past four years.

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