POLITICAL and human rights activists are mobilising citizens to stage mass protests against the deteriorating political and human rights situations in the country, where persecution of opposition leaders and activists is characterised by bans on gatherings and lengthy pretrial incarcerations of political activists.
Since the beginning of the year, government has heightened its clampdown on the opposition, with a number of opposition party members and workers union leaders arrested for demanding respect for human rights and rule of law.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators Job Sikhala (Zengeza West) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) as well as several other CCC activists have been denied bail at the courts on numerous occasions in the past three months in what has been viewed as political persecution.
As the political tensions escalate ahead of the 2023 elections, a group of political activists and rights defenders has threatened to stage mass protests.
Fearing victimisation, the activists are anonymously circulating fliers on social media encouraging a shutdown in protest over the deteriorating human rights situation.
In one of the fliers, the activists call for a national shutdown to force the Judiciary to stop unlawful detention of opposition politicians.
Human rights lawyer Wilfred Mandinde said citizens had the right to protest as long as they were in compliance with the dictates of the Constitution, but the right had been suppressed by government.
“The way protests are managed by authorities has made people believe that they are unlawful, yet they are enshrined in the Constitution,” Mandinde said.
“As long as they feel that they should speak against injustices, citizens can demonstrate against the establishment without being harassed or threatened. “
Political activist and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said “peaceful and lawful” protests were the only remaining tool available for citizens to force authorities to uphold constitutionalism.
“The issue of the deteriorating political and economic situations in the country is about what the citizens can do about it,” Ngarivhume said.
“In accordance with the Constitution, citizens have the right to protest peacefully. If the protests are well organised and gather momentum, the authorities will definitely Act. People have tried many other means to force the government to govern in a democratic way. They have prayed, petitioned and gone to the courts to compel the authorities to respect the rule of law, but it has failed. But they still have to speak and the only way they can do is to take to the streets.”
CCC leader Nelson Chamisa said repression had forced people to shun demonstrations.
Chamisa was speaking during an interview with a South African radio station last week.
He said: “I am sure you know the meaning of the repression. We have lost lives on account of protests in this country. You know what happened with the shooting of innocent citizens. You know the experience of apartheid. It’s the same situation that we have here. Zimbabweans continue to protest and demonstrate freely and peacefully asking for good governance, but the challenge continues.” Newsday