ZHRC probes political violence and human rights abuses

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has said it is investigating allegations of political violence and human rights violations following the national elections and leading up to the December by-elections.

Cases of abduction, arbitrary detention, and torture have recently increased, including the recent murder of an opposition political activist, pastor Tapfumanei Masaya, who was abducted on November 11, 2023 and went missing before his brutally beaten body was discovered on the outskirts of Harare, prompting human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Southern Defenders, and UN Human Rights Watch to call on Zimbabwean authorities to investigate these cases immediately.

ZHRC, a national human rights institution with a dual constitutional mandate of protecting, promoting and enforcing fundamental human rights freedoms and administrative justice, expressed concern over media reports of political violence and human rights violations.

“Particularly in some wards and constituencies where there are upcoming by-elections. The commission is investigating these allegations of political violence and human rights violations,” said ZHRC in a statement.

The Commission said it was reminding perpetrators of political violence that Section 67 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution allowed citizens to have the right to political choices and participation.

“This includes the right to vote freely and without fear and encompasses the principles of freedom of expression, assembly and association. By upholding these rights a society can foster an environment that encourages political participation, inclusivity and the fair representation of diverse voices,” said ZHRC.

“The Commission therefore encourages the citizens to be tolerant and observe human rights and the sanctity of life.”     

ZHRC also called on duty bearers, stakeholders such as political parties, contesting candidates, law enforcement agencies, media practitioners and traditional leaders among others of their constitutional obligations and responsibilities in protecting and fulfilling fundamental human rights and freedoms.

ZHRC is an independent commission established in terms of Sections 232(b) and 242 of the Zimbabwe’s Constitution and is supposed to protect citizens from human rights violations and offer administrative justice.

Apart from the murder of Masaya, fellow activist Jeffrey Kalosi was also abducted with the deceased during CCC’s by-election campaign. 

Kalosi was severely beaten and dumped hours later at Chabwino Farm not far from where Tapfumanei’s corpse was found days later.

Other abduction cases that took place after the elections include that of CCC Councillor, Womberaishe Nhende and his friend Sanele Mkhuhlane who were abducted and badly tortured on September 2, 2023, resulting in hospitalisation.

On August 26, 2023, suspected state agents disrupted a CCC news conference and attempted to forcibly take its national spokesperson, Promise Mkhwananzi into custody while members of the media were present, as other opposition intervened to prevent the abduction.

However, opposition activist Nelson Mukwenha who was one of those who prevented Mkhawanzi’s abduction was abducted later that evening at his home.

He was tortured and dumped in a forest at Mapinga on the outskirts of Harare.

On October 23, 2023,  former Member of Parliament (MP), James Chidhakwa, was abducted and tortured while the following week on November 1, 2023, current MP Takudzwa Ngadziore, was abducted and tortured.

Ngadziore went live on Facebook exposing the identity of the abductions whom human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Southern Defenders, and UN Human Rights Watch stated were alleged members of a “Ferret Team,” which is a covert police operations team.

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