(Nov. 29, 2012—Washington) The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) strongly denounces the behavior of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), and in particular, the increasing resort to both tribal and ethnic justifications for the violent mistreatment of its citizens. The RFK Center views this foreboding trend with serious concern and calls upon the Inclusive Government and the ZRP to respect fundamental rights and adhere to the rule of law as enshrined in its constitution and international law. Specifically, we urge the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Ms. Theresa Makone and Mr. Kembo Mohadi, to properly investigate this matter in due accordance with Zimbabwean law.
On Thursday, November 29, upwards of 300 Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) protestors peacefully marched to the Southampton House police station to register an official complaint, detailing the unabated mistreatment of its members that included a brutal mass arrest on November 13. During the November 13 altercation, on-duty ZRP officers directly referenced the Gukurahundi massacres and ordered WOZA members to not speak in their native Ndebele language. The complaint, entitled, "Bigotry, Tribal Insult, and Assault by Police Officer Mukoshi and ANOR on 13 November 2102," calls upon the ZRP to promptly investigate the matter and discipline responsible officers accordingly.
Upon delivering the complaint this morning, WOZA National Coordinator Jenni Williams and Program Coordinator Magodonga Mahlangu, were arrested and later released without charge. It is also reported that ZRP officers unduly harassed and inflicted violence on WOZA members as they knelt in prayer directly outside the police station doors. "These increasing reports of both the police and politicians in Zimbabwe using tribal and ethnic rhetoric to justify violence against law-abiding, peaceful citizens are of serious concern," said Santiago A. Canton, director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. "The government must ensure that the rights of every individual, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, are respected in an environment free of violence."
The RFK Center urges Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government to act immediately and responsibly to halt the unacceptable behavior that has been routinely on display by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. We respectfully remind the government of its explicit obligations under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), notably Article VII on the Promotion of Equality, National Healing, Cohesion and Unity, where it states the government will "ensure equal treatment of all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and place of origin" and will "strive to create an environment of tolerance and respect among Zimbabweans and that all citizens are treated with dignity and decency."
The RFK Center continues to stand in resolute solidarity with WOZA and ordinary Zimbabwean citizens who are actively striving to advance the country’s peaceful democratic transition.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy