By Alex Bell
23 May 2011
Zimbabwe civil society groups have slammed last week’s harassment and intimidation of activists at the regional leaders Summit in Namibia, which resulted in the prolonged detention and interrogation of key figures.
The civil society groups, including representatives from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, traveled to Namibia to lobby SADC leaders and pressure them to lay out a clear plan for democratic change in Zimbabwe. But their efforts were quickly thwarted by Namibia security officers and members of Zimbabwe’s CIO, who led a crackdown on the activists.
First to be targeted were about ten activists, including National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) chairperson Dadirai Chikwengo, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition officials MacDonald Lewanika, Pedzisayi Ruhanya and Dewa Mavhinga, and other representatives from the Zimbabwe Election Support.
The state security agents also briefly detained Jelousy Mawarire for taking pictures and chased away Shastry Njeru of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum from the venue of the SADC Summit. Mawarire, who had his pictures deleted from his camera, was later released after the intervention of Namibian human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe.
Also targeted were Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) head, Irene Petras, Joy Mabenge from the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, Lloyd Kuveya of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, and Makanatsa Makonese of the SADC Lawyers Association. The four were force-marched into the hotel’s parking area by two armed Namibian police who took them to the local Chief Inspector. They were then interrogated separately by Zimbabwe’s state security agents.
The Crisis Coalition's Mavhinga told SW Radio Africa on Monday that the activists were only allowed to leave well after the SADC summit had ended on Friday night. He explained how Zimbabwe’s state security agents were directing Namibian police to individually target activists who were calling for real democratic change in Zimbabwe.
“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms the treatment of the activists at the Summit. Clearly Namibia is not committed to human rights, and they are putting their relationship with ZANU PF before the rights of SADC citizens,” Mavhinga said.
Meanwhile the ZLHR said it “strongly condemns this despicable conduct.”
“The actions of the state security agents highlights the need to urgently reform the security sector players as enunciated in the Global Political Agreement as they continue to be a law unto themselves even beyond the borders of Zimbabwe,” the group said in a statement.