Zim rights groups condemn detention of activists

Zimbabwean rights groups on Saturday flayed the government for detaining Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists on terrorism-related charges for more than three months despite court rulings that the action was illegal.

Irene Petras, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told a news conference that more than 30 MDC party members, including 72-year-old Fidelis Chiramba, remained in custody.

“He [Chiramba] is the most extreme case amongst all political prisoners who remain incarcerated whilst politicians congratulate themselves about progress made in moving towards the establishment of an inclusive government,” Petras said.

Robert Mugabe’s long-ruling Zanu-PF party and the MDC on Thursday agreed to a power-sharing deal that would see MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai being sworn in as prime minister this month after disputed elections last year.

“We believe that the manner in which Mr Chiramba and his fellow political prisoners are being treated is a reflection of the lack of sincerity of politicians in ensuring that the security of all persons in Zimbabwe remains paramount.”

The detainees include Ghandi Mudzingwa—a former personal assistant of Tsvangirai. They were rounded up by the secret services on allegations of bombing various police stations, bridges and committing acts of terror.

Chiramba was arrested on October 31 along other several others, Petras said, adding that the septuagenarian had been incarcerated for 100 days and had not received medical attention despite court rulings.

Douglas Gwatidzo, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, also condemned the continued detentions, saying the activists had been severely tortured.

“Mr Chiramba continues to be denied access to adequate medical treatment,” Gwatidzo said.

“He [Chiramba] was taken to the Avenues clinic for treatment. He exhibited evidence of congestive cardiac failure secondary to severe hypertension. He still exhibits evidence of soft tissue injuries secondary to his assault.”

Gwatidzo said other activists were also “in danger and need adequate attention and care in a functional hospital”.

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said on Saturday that he doubts Zimbabwe’s unity government deal can work and insisted the solution to the country’s crisis is the departure of Mugabe.

“I haven’t changed,” he told reporters on Saturday. “He’s had an innings. It was a good innings and then he messed up. Let him step down.”

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is accused of destroying the Southern African nation’s once-vibrant economy through corruption and mismanagement, and of trampling on the human rights of its people.

Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, said the deal should be given a chance, “but many are not particularly hopeful”. He said Mugabe would have to be closely monitored to ensure the coalition does not turn out to be a “charade”.—AFP, Sapa-AP

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