SALC condemns lawyers arrest in Zimbabwe
Legal body calls for not to be absued before elections
Less than two weeks before critical elections, the police in Zimbabwe seem to be up to their old tricks - harrassing non-ZANU-PF politicians and making it extremely difficult for them to hold public gatherings.
The latest major incidents took place over the weekend with the arrest of the MDC parliamentary candidate Arnold Tsunga along with 50 supporters, and the banning of a political rally in Harare.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) has condemned the arrest and banning, claiming in a statement that the 'disruption and denial by Zimbabwean police of peaceful political gatherings; the arbitrary arrest of electoral candidates; and the intimidation of Zimbabwean citizens violates the rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression of Zimbabweans, members of the political opposition and human rights defenders.'
SALC stressed that Section 67 of the Zimbabwean Constitution explicitly provides for every Zimbabwean citizen to participate in the activities of a political party of their choice; 'to campaign freely and peacefully for a political party'; 'to participate in peaceful political activity'; and 'to participate, individually or collectively … in peaceful activities to influence, challenge or support the policies of the Government'.
“In the build-up to Zimbabwe’s presidential elections, Zimbabwe must commit itself to the creation and maintenance of an environment conducive to political freedom; one in which no political party, electoral candidate or individual is prevented from campaigning on the basis of political opinion or affiliation," said Nicole Fritz, Director of SALC. "All voices are protected and must be allowed to be heard.”
SALC added that the uneven application of Zimbabwe’s security laws requiring that political gatherings or marches be sanctioned by the police is tantamount to interference in the electoral process and called on the authorities responsible for the oversight of activities during the election period to ensure that the law is not manipulated, abused or applied in manner that offends the Zimbabwean Constitution.
“It is imperative that the Government take steps to assuage voters’ fears of violence and intimidation, in order for Zimbabwe’s election to be legitimate” said Fritz.
SALC also called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and electoral observers deployed by the Southern African Development Community and African Union to investigate and address the incarceration of the renowned laywer, Arnold Tsunga, and the cancelling of the political rally in Harare, and to ensure that the rights of all stakeholders are respected and protected during this important time.