An Ireland-based international human rights organisation, Frontline Defenders, has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to drop charges against seven local activists arrested in May last year after attending a capacity-building workshop in the Maldives.

By Everson Mushava

The seven activists are on bail on charges of receiving training to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government. They will be back in court tomorrow after the court on January 8 rejected their appeal to have their bail conditions relaxed.

They were arrested between May 20 and 27, 2019, on landing at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare.

The workshop was hosted by the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies and focused on peaceful resistance, but government claimed that the activists had received training in civil disobedience.

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But Frontline Defenders, in a statement yesterday said: “Frontline Defenders calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to immediately drop the charges against seven human rights defenders facing prosecution on fabricated charges.”

Its chief executive director Andrew Anderson said he was worried that Mnangagwa’s government, despite the hopes that people had in it, was emulating Mugabe’s toxic human rights record.

“We have a new wave of attacks targeting human rights defenders and civil society in 2019 in Zimbabwe as the first post-Mugabe government seemingly is following its predecessor’s playbook, despite the real hopes of the population in the wake of Mugabe’s removal from power. The case of the seven activists is a major litmus test for the direction Zimbabwe will go in 2020 and beyond. We call on the authorities to quash the charges immediately,” Anderson said.