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Zim in spotlight at Sadc summit

AMNESTY International — a human rights non-governmental organisation — has called on South Africa, which will this weekend takeover the chair of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) from Swaziland, to strongly address threats to basic human rights in Zimbabwe.

By Wongai Zhangazha

In recent months, journalists and peaceful protestors have been brutalised by the police.

South African President Jacob Zuma will assume the rotating Sadc chair from King Mswati III at the 37th Heads of State Summit in Pretoria.

Sadc will hold a double troika meeting today to discuss the political and security situation in the region.

Ironically, the summit is taking place at a time First Lady Grace Mugabe is under fire for allegedly assaulting a 20-year-old Johannesburg model, Gabriella Engels, after finding her in the company of her two sons in a hotel in Sandton.

Engels claims that Grace brutally assaulted her and two of her friends with an extension cord, while her 10 bodyguards watched.

Her sons fled the scene.

The international human rights organisation said Zimbabwe faces major political instability linked to elections that has put freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in jeopardy.

Amnesty International also blasted the Zimbabwean parliament for failing to realign laws with a national constitution adopted in 2013.

Deprose Muchena, the regional director of Amnesty International, said the authorities in Zimbabwe continue to use oppressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, as well as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to suppress dissent and intimidate journalists.

Last month, plain-clothed police officers brutally attacked three Alpha Media Holdings journalists, Obey Manayiti, Shepherd Tozvireva and Abigail Matsikidze, as well as a driver Raphael Phiri, accusing them of taking pictures in Harare’s Central Business District.

Manayiti sustained a bruised lip and a swollen eye during the attack.

Muchena said since last year the government has ramped up a clampdown against human rights defenders, suppressed peaceful public protests and in some cases prohibited public meetings. Police are regularly deployed to forcefully break up peaceful protests.

“South Africa must use its tenure as leader of the Sadc to put a stop to the downward spiral in human rights in the region,” said Muchena.

“Leaders across southern Africa cannot ignore the plight of citizens who are being targeted for attempting to exercise their basic human rights.”

Zimbabwe was last year rocked by a number of demonstrations as people protested against increasing corruption, unemployment, poverty and suffering. The security forces responded by unleashing a crack team which abducted and tortured protest leaders, while also randomly assaulting people at night. Government imposed a blanket ban on protests in central Harare.

Human rights activist Itai Dzamara, who was abducted in Harare’s Glen View suburb on March 9, 2015, is still missing, with the authorities making little or no effort to investigate his forced disappearance. — Staff Writer.

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