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Stop judicial harassment of rights defenders: UN – Zimbabwe Independent

Jacob Ngarivhume

UNITED Nations special rapporteur Mary Lawlor has urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to stop judicial harassment of education and labour rights activists in the country.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lawlor, who is a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders singled out the judicial persecution of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) leader Obert Masaraure as an example of harassment to deter labour activists from confronting government over labour rights violations.

Ngarivhume was recently jailed for inciting public violence.

Lawlor’s statement was endorsed by Alice Jill Edwards, UN special rapporteur on cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and Farida Shaheed, special rapporteur on the right to education.

“I am concerned about the on-going legal proceedings against Masaraure [Obert] who is also the spokesperson of the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe and urge authorities to drop the charges levelled against him. The charges are synonymous with criminalisation of education and labour rights defenders,” Lawlor wrote.

She added: “Mr Obert Masaraure has long been targeted in reprisals for his peaceful work in defence of the labour rights of teachers, educators, and all those who seek to uphold the fundamental right to education in Zimbabwe.

“Masaraure was in 2019 charged with “subverting a constitutionally-elected government and inciting public violence.  Since January 2022, Masaraure has faced multiple arrests and charges, including participation in a protest, alleged murder, and public incitement to violence, while being released on strict bail conditions.”

He is due to stand trial on May 29 on charges related to national security, including public incitement to violence and obstruction of justice.

A hearing on the murder charge that he also faces is scheduled for May 31, 2023.

The expert said she had witnessed what appeared to be “a systematic targeting of human rights defenders from Artuz” working to promote the right to education and the right to an adequate standard of living for educators in rural areas of Zimbabwe.

“Since I took office in 2020, I have heard numerous allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force and ill-treatment by police officers against human rights defenders working to protect labour rights,” she said.

The special rapporteur expressed concern that such targeting may be an attempt to deter others from standing up and peacefully assembling to fight for the right to education in the country.

“I am hoping to see the charges against Mr Obert Masaraure dropped and urge the government of Zimbabwe to promote a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders,” Lawlor said.

The UN expert said she would continue to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe.

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SA’s Limpopo province records first cholera case as Zimbabwean national is admitted to Musina Hospital

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By Yoliswa Sobuwa and Cebelihle Bhengu

  • The Department of Health in Limpopo has announced the province’s first cholera case.
  • The 26-year-old Zimbabwean national was admitted to Musina Hospital.
  • However, the department added that the case was not unexpected due to an outbreak in the neighbouring Beitbridge district in Zimbabwe.

Limpopo has recorded its first cholera case, according to the provincial Department of Health.

It said the 26-year-old Zimbabwean national reported to Musina Hospital on Friday after experiencing severe symptoms, including vomiting and dehydration. The department said the person was isolated and treated, and was recovering well.

However, the case was not unexpected due to an outbreak in the neighbouring Beitbridge district in Zimbabwe.

The department appealed for calm, adding that health facilities in Bela Bela and the Vhembe district were on high alert.

“The department is strengthening its outbreak response work by means of surveillance and also conducting health promotions working with local stakeholders in the hotspot areas, including the Beitbridge border post. The department has also met with the Vhembe District Municipality about the need to regularly conduct water tests as a preventative measure,” the department said.

Meanwhile, the North West health department has clarified that two cholera cases recorded in the Bojanala District Municipality were, in fact, among the cases that were reported in Gauteng.

READ | Tshwane cholera outbreak source still unknown as municipality continues to deploy water tankers

On Tuesday afternoon, the department reported two positive cholera cases in the province. North West health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said two people, aged 38 and 68, presented with vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms.

However, the national Department of Health said the two cases had already been reported in Gauteng.

Spokesperson Foster Mohale said it was discovered during a discussion with North West health officials that the two patients were screened, tested and diagnosed with cholera while they were in Hammanskraal.

Mohale added:

The positive cases and deaths are counted under the province or district in which they were tested, not where the patients reside.

He said the North West had no confirmed cases.

“The department would like to apologise for the communication error,” he said.

READ | He’d never even heard of cholera. Now he has four girls and a boy to raise without their mother

So far, 24 people have died amid the outbreak – 23 from Hammanskraal and one from the Free State.

Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

According to the health department, people become ill 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, cramps, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.

Most people have mild or moderate symptoms, but some develop acute watery diarrhoea, with severe dehydration, which can lead to death if untreated.

On Monday, the Department of Water and Sanitation said an investigation was under way into the source of the cholera outbreak.

The department said technical teams from the water and sanitation department, and those from the provincial and national health departments and relevant municipalities were carrying out water quality tests at distribution points and water treatment works in areas where people became affected.

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UK: Munya Chawawa to make his ‘Have I Got News For You’ debut

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LONDON: Munya Chawawa is to make his debut on Have I Got News For You next month.

The comic will be on the panel of the last episode of the current, 65th, series, which airs on BBC One on Friday June 16.

The British-Zimbabwean comedian first rose to prominence via the satirical videos he makes online and has previously been a Taskmaster contestant, played the future King Charles in Channel 4’s Prince Andrew: The Musical, and made the documentary How to Survive a Dictator.

Chawawa’s episode will be hosted by BBC newsreader & Mastermind presenter Clive Myrie, guest hosting for the third time. Journalist Helen Lewis will be the other panelist alongside Paul Merton and Ian Hislop.

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Zimbabwe facing myriad ‘traditional’ obstacles ahead of general elections

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  • A failing economy, lawfare and a shrinking civic space are among the traditional obstacles facing Zimbabwe ahead of its general elections.
  • Zanu-PF is moving fast to enact the Patriotic Bill and Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill ahead of the polls.
  • Media practitioners from state and independent organisations say they are unable to carry out their mandates before the elections.

A tanking economy, lawfare, a shrinking civic space, propaganda, an electoral body under fire and disinformation have all come to the fore ahead of general elections in Zimbabwe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has gazetted Wednesday, 23 August as the election date.

Political parties have three months to convince the electorate to cast their votes for them.

If there is a run-off, it will be held on 2 October.

Various think tanks predict a close race between Mnangagwa and his biggest challenger, Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

The latest survey on the elections by US institute Fitch Solutions predicted a Mnangagwa victory because of the ruling party’s access to state machinery and resources.

“Zanu-PF’s overarching resources and influence compared to the opposition CCC, headed by Chamisa, will preserve its support in rural strongholds and win key votes in low-income urban areas.

“Central to our belief that Zanu-PF will win the elections is the party’s far greater political and economic resources it has to sway the vote in its favour,” the organisation said.

Almost all surveys forecasted the elections, while not free and fair, would have violent episodes, and the outcome would leave Zimbabwe’s economy in the doldrums.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission under fire

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will again oversee an election where its reputation is at its lowest.

Some of its commissioners have direct links to individuals with a vested interest in the elections.

One of them is Abigail Mohadi-Ambrose who is the daughter of former vice president Kembo Mohadi.

Mohadi stepped down from the government in 2021 after a sex scandal, which he claimed was fabricated by his political enemies.

However, he remains an integral part of Zanu-PF’s election bid, going around the country campaigning for the party.

The ZEC’s biggest headache is the voters’ roll.

Opposition political parties have implored the electoral body to investigate anomalies found in the voters’ roll such as missing names.

“Registered voters, who appeared on the biometric voters’ roll’s online inspection platform, are suddenly finding their names missing from the current online platforms.

“The voters’ roll, under inspection, seems not to be synchronised with the new delimitation boundaries.

“Therefore, prospective voters have been displaced from their wards,” Ian Makone, the CCC’s secretary for elections, wrote to the ZEC.

The Election Resource Centre, an independent organisation, told journalists it looked like “the voters’ roll has been tampered with and cannot, therefore, be trusted to deliver a credible election in its current rushed format”.

Failing economy

Brian Moyo is a forex dealer by day and a street vendor by night, selling groceries at a time when the local dollar is fast losing value against major currencies such as the in-demand US dollar.

“These are the two most lucrative hustles for an unemployed person with or without political links,” Moyo said.

On the streets, US$1 can fetch as much as Z$4 500, whereas the official bank states US$1 is equivalent to Z$1 965.

That means when pricing goods, shops must abide by the official bank rate, but they defy this by pegging their product well above that rate.

One of the leading companies in Zimbabwe, Innscor, a fast-food chain, pegged its products at US$1 to Z$2 900 on Wednesday.

The rate is much higher in pharmacies, where it can reach Z$4 500.

A pharmacy owner said:

We increased our prices in the local dollar because we buy foreign currency from the streets.

For an ordinary Zimbabwean earning in the local currency, the cost of living is high.

Mnangagwa said he believed the business community was hell-bent on destabilising his government.

“We see business destabilising the macroeconomy and, in the process, undermining the very effort towards arrears clearance and dent resolution,” presidential spokesman George Charamba told state media.

Businessman James Ncube told News24 the economy was much harder to deal with than party politics.

“They can rig elections, but they cannot rig the economy. We buy fuel, a factor of production, in foreign currency, and we get that currency from the streets; the government has failed to assist us in many more aspects,” he said.

Like all industries, the media has also been hard hit.

State media journalists, who mostly promote the government’s messaging of an economy on the rebound, recently told their employer they were being incapacitated.

Some even hinted their situation would derail the ruling party’s chances of an election win.

Journalists from the independent press have echoed the same sentiment.

Many feel the state of the economy and their employers’ failure to increase their salaries will affect their mandate in covering the run-up to and the eventual polls.

The African Development Bank told Zimbabwe’s government politics played a big role in the country’s economic woes and a free and fair election would boost the country’s prospects.


With three months to go before the polls, Mnangagwa is expected to sign the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill into law.

Its implementation will undermine freedom of association and expression.

According to Amnesty International, “the bill threatens civic society organisations working on human rights in Zimbabwe”.

Another law the regime intends to pass ahead of the elections is the Patriotic Bill, which gives the National Prosecuting Authority the power to, at its discretion, charge people who undermine or use false statements to paint a bad picture of Zimbabwe to foreign governments.

But in reality, the law will muzzle journalists, critics, and the opposition from exposing corruption to the world, which according to it would be unpatriotic.

One of the ruling party’s fiercest critics, Job Sikhala of the CCC and a legislator for Zengeza, has been in prison for almost a year.

As things stand, with the nomination court sitting on 21 June, he might not be around to file his papers.

Instead, his son, Job junior, might stand on a CCC ticket.

Sikhala’s arrest for alleged violence appears to be politically motivated, similar to that of Transform Zimbabwe president Jacob Ngarivhume.

Ngarivhume was convicted and sentenced to 48 months in jail for inciting public violence. He is serving an effective 36 months.

His jailing emanates from anti-corruption protests in July 2021.

Speaking at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, which was held earlier this month, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said the arrests were a scare tactic to deter those who intended to oppose the government.

“The government’s war against freedom and its weaponisation of the law against myself and other government critics, such as Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume, is calculated to send a chilling message to the rest of society.

“We’re watching you, even on Twitter. And this is the punishment you get for participating in opposition politics,” she added.

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