THE Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance has stressed a halt to persecution of its members and siege of its activities under the pretense of enforcing COVID-19 safety regulations while Zanu PF activities were permitted to go uninterrupted.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere yesterday accused police and the ruling Zanu PF party of “weaponising the law” following the arrest of 12 opposition leaders while making funeral arrangements for a party cadre in Chinhoyi at the weekend.
Mahere said the MDC Alliance officials were accused of breaking COVID-19 regulations at a time when their counterparts in Zanu PF were reportedly allowed to conduct rallies and funerals which surpassed 30 people.
“We condemn the unlawful nature of the arrests and the selective weaponisation of the law against our members. The persecution of our members must come to an end,” Mahere said.
“Kenneth Musanhi (Bindura North MP) held a Zanu PF rally in breach of COVID-19 regulations, yet our leaders met to plan a funeral and they were arrested at gunpoint by armed soldiers. The persecution must stop.
“On Saturday, 12 MDC Alliance provincial leaders from Mashonaland West including chairman Ralph Magunje were taken at gunpoint by six soldiers and seven police officers from the Chinhoyi party office. They were organising the funeral of ward four member, (Mr) Kembo who passed away on Friday.
“They were detained under armed guard at Chinhoyi Central Police Station. They were not told why they were seized by the military or what charges they were facing. Eventually they were advised that they were charged for holding an unlawful gathering,” Mahere said.
A fortnight ago, Musanhi held a rally in his constituency, breaking COVID-19 lockdown regulations but no arrests were made.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said: “We are all aware of the WHO (World Health Organisation) COVID-19 protocols. We are also aware of the Health ministry regulations associated with COVID-19. Everyone is expected to observe them and not Zanu PF alone. The police as the law enforcement agents have a duty to see that the laws are obeyed. As for Musanhi, he will speak for himself, but remember that there is not gathering that takes place without the police knowing about it.”
Recently the United Nations Human Rights Office expressed concern over government’s abuse of COVID-19 regulations to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to ensure that people’s rights and freedoms were protected in accordance with Zimbabwe’s human rights obligations.
“We are indeed concerned at allegations that suggest that the Zimbabwean authorities may be using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” Hurtado said.