People had reasons NOT to be happy about the PM’s message that it is safe to return home while MDC activists, including MPs, are being beaten, arrested and jailed by the Zanu-PF controlled Home Affairs and Ministry State Security, Ministry of Prisons Service and Ministry of Justice.
Amnesty International’s chief said last week the situation in Zimbabwe remains grim despite promises of reform and that some in President Robert Mugabe’s party still regard violence as a legitimate political tool.
Irene Khan, the first secretary general of the human rights watchdog to visit Zimbabwe, complained that the southern African country’s four-month-old unity government was not pursuing human rights abusers.
"Progress on human rights has been woefully slow. Although the level of political violence is significantly lower than last year, the human rights situation remains precarious," Khan told reporters after six days in Zimbabwe.
Minutes after she spoke and just a few hundred yards (meters) away, police beat peaceful protesters from local human rights groups.
Khan had been promised a meeting with Mugabe during her visit but didn’t get one — even though the longtime, increasingly autocratic leader was championed as an Amnesty "prisoner of conscience" during his anti-colonial campaign in the 1960s and ’70s.
Khan was to see Mugabe’s former rival and current governing partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on Friday in London. Tsvangirai was a trip to Europe and the United States, trying to repair Zimbabwe’s ties with the West and convince potential donors change was coming.
Khan said her delegation found, after talks with officials in the coalition from both Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, "no real sense of urgency to bring about human rights changes."
"Senior ministers confirmed that addressing impunity is not a priority for the government right now," she said.
No serious efforts were made to reform security and military services accused of intimidating and attacking Mugabe’s opponents, Khan said.
"No major investigation or prosecution has been brought against those responsible for state-sponsored political violence in recent years. Some elements of ZANU-PF still see the use of violence as a legitimate tool to crush political opponents," she said.
Today, a study by human rights groups in southern Africa says torture and other abuses in Zimbabwe have been so widespread and systematic that they could be considered crimes against humanity.
And it says these abuses continue, causing a major blemish on the four month-old power-sharing government.
The director of the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit, Tony Reeler, says a review of investigations by numerous rights groups shows that torture and gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe have been perpetrated for decades on an epidemic scale.
He says the abuses have been widespread and systematic which fulfills a definition of crimes against humanity.
He adds that victims have identified senior Zimbabwean officials as being behind the violence. And they have testified that torture centers were set up in government-owned buildings such as schools and clinics.
He says this indicates that, at the very least, the state condoned the abuse.
"You can be accused of crimes against humanity in two ways. One is that you are actively involved in the commission of those things.
“The second is that you do not take active steps to prevent it. Omission is also very important," he said.
Reeler’s report was based on investigations by more than one dozen human rights groups which, he says, used different methods but came to the same basic conclusions these last few days in Zimbabwe, while the Prime Minister has being touring the Western countries.
To ask us to go back home when most of us have spent nine years living in destitution here in UK, de-skilled, is not a message we want to hear at the moment as it compounds the mental, psychological and social trauma that haunts us every day here as UK Home Office condemns us to a life in limbo.
Unemployment rate stands at more than 95% and the limited resources and social services like health, education etc are not even enough for those that are at home.
The only home some of us know at the moment is here in UK as we no longer have any homes, families and jobs to return to!
Let those that want to go back home go when they have something to lean on, when they are ready.
This is the general feeling of our MDC Coventry Members and am sure we share them with members in other branches.
Together to the end, macrhing to a new Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile The Youth Forum of Zimbabwe has also issued a statement confirming recent Voice of America reports that Zanu (PF) Youths were amassing at schools in preparation for a violent crackdown on the opposition.
Statement on the re-establishment of bases in schools
We are greatly disturbed by the media reports that ZANU PF youths are re-establishing bases in rural schools; this information has also been echoed by our contact person in Chipinge, citing the incident which occurred in an area called Rimbi, Ward 14 where youths were forced to take positions in the ZANU PF ward structure before being deployed to a base at Rimbi primary School.
They were ordered to go there on the pretext of being trained about the constitutional making process so that they can go to communities to educate people about this process, but it was soon established that they pegged their flag and banner at the school and were threatening teachers suspected to be aligned to MDC.
Youth Forum views such behaviour as malicious and a total negation of the global political agreement, hence retrogressive in all aspects. This is also tantamount to further burdening teachers with more grievances to couple their already nasty working conditions characterised by a pitiful wage and associated challenges.
It is also a denial of the Zimbabwean Child’s to right of education since the disturbance of teachers also directly affects their education. This is not fair given the long time that these children have been denied their right to education before the formation of the inclusive government.
To us bases are the epitome of ZANU PF evil schemes where human slaughter, looting, abuses of all forms and brigandage are given blessings. These so called bases are also the detention and torture centres for the perceived ZANU PF enemies as well as kangaroo courts for the latter.
We believe that these are desperate attempts by ZANU PF to win supporters in the wake of a realization by the generality of Zimbabweans that they have no clear agenda to end the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.
ZANU PF is bankrupt of ideas after having failed to deliver for the 29 years it has been at the helm of this nation.
This is also evidenced by the resurfacing of rhetoric that ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’ following the barring of Walter Muzembi entrance to White House on his tour to the Western countries alongside the Prime-Minister.
The continued farm invasions are also a testimony of the above phenomenon. The state media is still being abused in favor of ZANU PF propaganda machinations by conveying intimidating and hate messages to non-ZANU PF apologists.
We therefore condemn this behavior with the contempt it deserves and thereby call upon ZANU PF leadership to publicly condemn such acts.
We are shocked by the continued silence of ZANU PF despite their utterances with regards to commitment to the government of national unity and preaching of national healing by those in the high echelons of the party.
We are challenging the ZANU PF youth leadership to set up a commission of inquiry to establish the root of this evil if the are not pert of these machinations in the shortest possible time. www.changezimbabwe.com