MDC Manchester Branch leads demonstration outside Zimbabwe Embassy, Saturday 21st September 2019

The Manchester branch, led by North District Chair Thokozani Maya travelled down to London standing in solidarity with other party members and supporters demonstrating against the continued human rights violations, continued arrests and detention of MDC leaders, members, human rights activities and civic society. In the last month, the regime’s secret militia have abducted and tortured a popular comedian (Samantha Kureya aka Gonyeti and Dr Peter Magombeyi who has since left the country for South Africa for further treatment.)

Zanu PF’s human rights violations have been extensively documented and it is a known fact that security forces killed innocent protesters on 1 August 2018 and January 2019 and also systematically use excessive force and arbitrarily detain protesters.  The Army and Security agents on both occasions used guns, during peaceful demonstrations without prior warning, in violation of the international legal principles of necessity and proportionality, they shot directly at demonstrators at short range killing innocent people.

Credible and consistent accounts of victims and witnesses indicate that security forces systematically use excessive force to deter demonstrations, crush dissent and instil fear as witnessed on 16th August 2019 when they charged into a crowd of protestors peacefully sat on the ground in Harare town centre near the MDC HQ and assaulted old women and men with some ending up in hospital.

The government does not condemn incidents of excessive use of force and killings, in most cases denied security forces were responsible for such incidents, and repeatedly labelled demonstrators as criminals.

It is on record that security forces (mainly the Zimbabwe National Army and Special Secret Security agents) are allegedly responsible for at least 23 killings between August 2018 to January 2019.

Sexual violence intended to punish, humiliate and terrorise women, as well as to extract confessions and information about alleged anti-government activities have been identified as a pattern of serious violation.

Rape as a weapon of conflict

In January 2019, 50 women reported they had been raped following the peaceful demonstrations against the fuel price increases. Rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but are used as a deliberate military strategy. The opportunistic rape and pillage of previous centuries has been replaced in modern conflict by rape used as an orchestrated combat tool.

In many nations the collapse of the rule of law leaves them unable to deal with allegations of rape, while in others women feel too exposed to stigma to accuse their attackers. This is the case experienced by the 50 women who were raped in Zimbabwe and some are unable to tell their husbands for fear of losing their marriages or being treated as outcasts in their communities.

Amnesty International says ‘women’s bodies have become part of the terrain of conflict’.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of a serious political and social economic crisis. Under these circumstances it is important that MDC provides the necessary leadership to take Zimbabwe forward. President Chamisa launched RELOAD in July 2019, a road map which entails five key signposts for a future Zimbabwe. Download https://mdcukandireland.org/about/our-policies/

Patricia Chinyoka, MDC UK and Ireland Province Spokesperson