Mnangagwa in tight spot over kidnappings

Mnangagwa in tight spot over kidnappings
Published: 17 September 2019 (257 Views)
AS THE special United Nations human rights envoy was arriving in Zimbabwe yesterday for his key mission, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government were facing fresh questions over their commitment to the rule of law - following the resurgence of abductions in the country, the Daily News reports.

This comes as hundreds of angry medical doctors held marches in Harare and Bulawayo yesterday demanding the immediate release of the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Peter Magombeyi, who was seized from his home in the dead of night at the weekend.

And as pressure mounted on the government to stop the escalating abductions of its critics, High Court judge Edith Mushore also ordered the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation yesterday to step up their investigations and force the release of Magombeyi.

Heightening the pressure on the government was the arrival in the country yesterday of UN Special Rapporteur Clément Nyaletsossi Voule,  who is on a 10-day visit to assess the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, amid growing kidnappings of government critics.

This is the first official visit by an independent human rights expert, appointed by the Human Rights Council, to Zimbabwe.

"My … visit to Zimbabwe represents a key opportunity to learn first-hand about laws, policies and national realities in relation to the rights to peaceful assembly and of association in light to the 2013 Constitution and the change of leadership.

"My mission will also serve to identify the opportunities and challenges the government faces in implementing articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly in relation to the management of assemblies in the context of the recent protests," Voule said ahead of his meetings with the government and various interest groups in the country.

The Togolese national will also meet representatives of the judiciary and Members of Parliament.

Voule arrived as hordes of angry doctors marched from Parirenyatwa Hospital to Mnangagwa's offices to present a petition demanding the release of Magombeyi.

But they were stopped in their tracks by heavily armed police metres away from the president's offices - subsequent to which six of their representatives were allowed to hand over the petition to the Zanu-PF leader.

This comes after Magombeyi was kidnapped by gunmen from his Budiriro home just after 10 pm on Saturday.

"Dr Peter Magombeyi's whereabouts remain unknown, and we are seriously concerned about this. We therefore demand his unconditional return to his family," the doctors said in their petition.

Addressing journalists afterwards, ZHDA treasurer general, Tapiwa Mungofa, said the abduction of Magombeyi would not deter them from demanding improved salaries and working conditions.

"We have successfully submitted the petition and we are calling upon the country's security forces to work extra hard to locate our president. We are also continuing with our motto of ‘no Peter, no work'.

"We not only need our president to be returned, but we also want government to address our grievances. We shall therefore continue with the fight to have our salaries pegged in line with the current interbank rate," he said.

Before the weekend's dramatic developments, the doctors had already been on strike, although they were reporting for duty to deal with emergency cases.

They said yesterday that the kidnapping of Magombeyi had prompted them to completely withdraw their services, in a bid to force his captors to release him.

Magombeyi's abduction comes a month after the seizures and torture of pro-democracy activist Tatenda Mombeyarara, MDC Mufakose youth chair Blessing Kanotunga and comedienne Samantha Kureya, popularly known as Gonyeti.

Doctors at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo also joined their colleagues in Harare in the strike, to march for the unconditional release of the ZHDA leader.

Mushore's order for the police and the CIO to establish Magombeyi's whereabouts and to facilitate his return came after prominent human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, together with Paidamoyo Saurombe, filed an urgent application demanding the doctor's unconditional release.

Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema, minister of State for National Security Owen Ncube, Commissioner General of police Godwin Matanga and CIO director Isaac Moyo were cited as the respondents in the application.

"In the event that the respondents or anyone acting through them or on their behalf are holding Magombeyi, then they are ordered to release him forthwith or bring him to the High Court, Harare, within 48 hours of being served this order," Mushore said.

Mushore also ordered that Mathema and Matanga determine Magombeyi's whereabouts by advertising in print and electronic media, and setting up a team of investigators to conduct searches around Zimbabwe before reporting to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for human Rights and High Court registrar every Friday.

The police were also directed to engage mobile network operator Econet Wireless to trace Magombeyi through his phone number and another one, 078 264 5911 - which was used to send him a threatening message on August 28.

Magombeyi's abduction comes as the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference told Mnangagwa at the weekend that it was time his government probed all cases of abductions of his opponents, as well as State-sponsored violence and human rights violations.

"We are deeply concerned about the reported nocturnal visits by unknown masked men, beatings, torture, sexual assaults, abductions, harassment of dissenting voices and violent repression of demonstrations by police.

"Such acts contradict the positive narrative of Zimbabwe's Second Republic, have no place in a democratic society and there should be no impunity for those who commit these crimes.

"We particularly request security forces to refrain from heavy-handedness in restraining unarmed civilians. The Zimbabwe Republic Police to investigate all cases of torture, abductions and wanton beatings and bring the perpetrators to trial," the bishops said in a statement released before the disappearance of Magombeyi.

Meanwhile, international pressure was mounting on the government to end the continuing abductions - with the United States urging Mnagagwa's administration to take decisive action on the perpetrators yesterday.

"Since January more than 50 civil society, labour, and opposition leaders have been abducted in Zimbabwe.

"No arrests have been made. We urge the government to take action and hold perpetrators of these human rights violations accountable," the US embassy in Harare said on Twitter.

On its part, the British government said it was worried by the rising cases of abductions, adding that it was following this latest case closely.

"We are very concerned about the reports regarding the alleged abduction of (Dr) Magombeyi.

"We are following this case closely and are engaging with our partners to verify his whereabouts," UK ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson, said on social media.

Rights groups accused the government of knowing, but failing to arrest the people behind the spate of abductions.

"It is a shameful and blatant lie for the authorities to insinuate that there is some mysterious third force that abducts and tortures government critics, as well as doctors protesting poor salaries.

"Why has there been no single arrest of an abductor in the face of mounting evidence that these are state agents doing these evil, vile and cowardly crimes against humanity?

"What international community member wants to re-engage with a government that does not protect its citizens against abductions?" Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa, said.

- dailynews

Tags: Mnangagwa,

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