A HUMAN rights lobby group has challenged government to stop making false claims about civic organisations while trying to divert attention on the abduction and alleged torture of three MDC Alliance officials last month.

By Nhau Mangirazi

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said government should stop looking at civic organisations as “avid critics of government”, but lawful entities that exist for constitutional causes.

The Forum was reacting to claims by Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe on Thursday implicating opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, churches, rights lawyers and doctors as well as western embassies in participating in a “fake” abduction of Harare West MP Joanah Mamombe, activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.

The three were abducted and allegedly tortured after staging a protest in Warren Park, Harare, over the deteriorating situation in the country.

They were dumped at Muchapondwa business centre in Bindura. The abduction attracted international condemnation.
Kazembe was addressing journalists in Harare on what he said were the preliminary findings of police investigation into the abduction and torture claims.

He implicated the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights and the Counselling Services Unit, all members of the Forum, a grouping of 20 human rights organisations, saying they were all complicit in the abductions.

“It is high time government stops having imaginary enemies, engaging in diversionary tactics, and delivers on its constitutional duty to ensure the safety, security and welfare of its citizens,” The Forum said in a statement yesterday.

“Our members have worked ceaselessly, including lending their expertise in aid to the government-led fight against COVID-19. The mentioned CSOs in the minister’s statement are long-standing, bona fide civil society organisations whose work speaks for themselves.”

The Forum said its members were performing their constitutional mandates and have been assisting government, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and wonders how the State has chosen to describe them adversaries of the state.

“Our long memory and suffering reminds us that in the past, when individuals and institutions are named by high-ranking government and ruling party officials as perceived adversaries, verbal and physical vilification follows closely behind,” the Forum added.

In his claims, Kazembe said doctors who do not reside in the country just came back to stage-manage the abductions in order to tarnish the image of the country.

He claimed preliminary investigations have shown that on the day, the three went close to CSU offices in the Kopje area before they went missing.

“The persistent and ceaseless attacks on CSOs leaders, both through skullduggery approaches and persecution by prosecution are well-documented tactics in Zimbabwe.

“This flies in the face of rhetoric on the new dispensation. The State and its functionaries should desist from perceiving CSOs as adversaries, but as partners in the quest for good governance, rule of law, protection of human rights, and the welfare of the Zimbabwean people,” the Forum said.

“We note earlier statements by senior government and ruling party officials, that pre-emptively characterised the abductions as fake, and as having all the hallmarks of ‘other fake abductions’.

“We note, for instance, that the minister’s statement fails to address the critical question of the conflicting statements issued by the police in the first two days of the abductions, including the confirmation by police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi of the arrest of the trio.”

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