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Zimbabwe: violent crackdown on activists ahead of opposition protests

Two activists abducted and tortured - beaten with metal rods and left for dead - ahead of protests planned for tomorrow

The authorities “are using some of the brutal tactics seen under the government of Robert Mugabe” - Muleya Mwananyanda

The Zimbabwean authorities are using abduction and torture tactics in an escalating crackdown against activists and members of the opposition ahead of opposition-led protests planned for tomorrow (16 August), Amnesty International said.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has organised mass protests - endorsed by trade unions and other civil society groups - against the faltering economy which has resulted in millions of people becoming reliant on food aid.

The authorities have been targeting activists ahead of the protest. On Tuesday evening (13 August), activist Tatenda Mombeyarara was abducted from his home in Chitungwiza by unknown men armed with AK-47 rifles. The men placed a plastic bag over his head, bundled him into their car and drove away, before leaving him for dead.

The Zimbabwean government has issued a warning against any protest, accusing unnamed foreign collaborators of working with local civil society organisations to destabilise the country through protests.

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa, said:

“We are witnessing a violent crackdown on activists and civil society leaders, with authorities using some of the brutal tactics seen under the government of Robert Mugabe.

“The authorities have used torture and abduction to crush dissent and instil fear.

“The authorities must launch a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the abduction and torture of the two activists and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials.

“As people prepare to protest for their socio-economic rights over the next few days, authorities must exercise restraint against protesters and respect, protect and promote both freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly of everyone. Organising and participating in protests is not a crime.”

Abductions and torture

After Tatenda Mombeyarara was abducted, his captors beat him with metal rods on his feet and buttocks before dumping him near a pit in Hatfield, a suburb in the south of Harare, where they left him for dead. He is currently being treated in hospital for the serious injuries he sustained. During the beatings, he was accused of being involved in organising tomorrow’s planned protests. The men threatened him, saying: “[We are going] to deal with all of you”.

On the same night, Blessing Kanotunga, an activist from the opposition MDC, was taken from his home in Mufakose by unknown armed men. They dumped him in Chitungwiza, a suburb in the South of Harare. He is also receiving treatment for serious injuries sustained during the abduction.

Earlier this year, 15 protesters were killed by security forces after the government’s decision to hike fuel prices.

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