Heal Zimbabwe condemns in the strongest terms remarks made by Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga during a press conference on the 8th of August 2016 and an interview in the Sunday mail newspaper. General Chiwenga made threats against what he called “opposition elements and ZANU PF infiltrators” whom he accused of causing turmoil and seeking to destroy ZANU PF from within.
General Chiwenga also threatened Zimbabweans who are airing their socio-economic grievances via social media that strict laws shall be enforced to stop them, sentiments people feel threaten Constitutional provisions on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms such as freedom to petition and demonstrate, freedom of expression and access to information. Threatening social media users with jail violates these fundamental human rights.
His remarks come at a time when the country is witnessing peaceful protests countrywide where ordinary citizens are demonstrating against the deteriorating socio-economic conditions, corruption, introduction of bond notes and unemployment. The police have responded to some of the protests by assaulting protestors and carrying out a series of unlawful arrests. Members of the Security Services should be reminded that it is constitutional for citizens to enjoy fundamental human rights where they are free to express themselves and are free to petition and demonstrate peacefully.
The remarks by General Chiwenga are in stark contrast to President Mugabe’s call on Heroes day, where he appealed for peace in Zimbabwe saying that while protestors have a right to stage peaceful marches in the country, they should not engage in violent activities. Heal Zimbabwe notes that while the President’s call for peace is applauded, such calls should be followed by swift action that ensures that security forces respect and promote fundamental human rights. The President in accordance with section 90 of the Constitution must promote unity and peace in the nation for the benefit and well-being of all Zimbabweans. Heal Zimbabwe implores Government to ensure the protection and upholding of fundamental human rights and freedoms by promoting rule of law and constitutionalism.
Heal Zimbabwe has been on record in carrying out advocacy campaigns against human rights abuses by members of the security services and in January 2016, took the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to the Constitutional court over delays in providing an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the security services in compliance with Section 210 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitutional Court is yet to make ruling on the case.