Photo Credit: Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters
The ecumenical Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), which includes the Anglican dioceses in the country, has joined other NGOs and Christian groups to express their “deep concern” about the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe. In a joint statement issued by the CCZ, Caritas Zambia, Civil Society Constitutional Agenda, Non- Governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council, Alliance for Community Action and Action Aid, call for an international response, and say: “as civil society activists, we cannot sit idle while our neighbours are being beaten, arrested, detained and killed.”
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived back in the country last night (Monday) after calling short a five-day trip to Europe, where he was due to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He said that “heads would roll” if security forces were found to be responsible for systematic torture amid reports of a brutal response to protests. More than 600 people are said to have been arrested, and protestors claim that dozens have been killed. The protests were sparked by an economic collapse and steep fuel rises.
“Civil Society in Zambia remains deeply concerned with the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and the reported human rights violations against citizens by the state”, the Zambian NGO joint statement said. “As civil rights groups, we are particularly concerned with the reported beatings, arrest and killing of unarmed citizens who were peacefully demonstrating against the dire economic situation in Zimbabwe. We also take note that it had to take a Court action to overturn the shutdown of the internet which had [been done] in an effort to silence the masses.
“The economic situation in Zimbabwe remains a huge challenge for the majority of the people in that country. The situation has been compounded with the recent hike in fuel prices. We urge the leadership in Zimbabwe to be magnanimous and begin to address the suffering of the people. The onus lies on President Mnangagwa to be all inclusive in finding a lasting solution to the many challenges that the country faces.
“In 2018, Zimbabwean signed the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance, committing to adhere to good governance principles as outlined in the ACDEG. However, it is unfortunate that the happenings in Zimbabwe are a contradiction of the provisions of the ACDEG and a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Already a number of Zimbabweans have crossed the borders into neighbouring countries like Zambia and South Africa.
“It is disheartening to note that the terrible situation in Zimbabwe has not garnered the desired response both regionally and internationally. As civil society activists, we cannot sit idle while our neighbours are being beaten, arrested, detained and killed. We therefore urge the Zimbabwean government through President Emmerson Mnangagwa to immediately halt the human rights violations against its citizens and to respect the rule of law.
“We also call upon [Zambian] President Edgar Lungu, as Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics Defence and Security, and any influential members of the international community, including the African Union, to take a keen interest in the happenings in Zimbabwe before more innocent lives are lost. Zimbabwe deserves better from its leaders and the international community.”