SW Radio Africa
The arrest last week of renowned human rights lawyer and MDC-T parliamentary candidate Arnold Tsunga, has cast even more doubt on the credibility of next week’s election.
This is according to the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) which has condemned the arrest of Tsunga and 50 MDC-T supporters last Friday. The group was arrested after police accused them of participating in an ‘illegal’ rally in Chikanga-Dangamvura.
The group was eventually released on Saturday after being made to pay US$20 ‘admission of guilt’ fines.
Also last Friday, police in Mount Darwin arrested the MDC-T parliamentary candidate for Bindura North, Elliot Pfebve, who was detained over night before being released without charge. His ‘crime’ was to put up posters of his party President Morgan Tsvangirai.
SALC said: “The disruption and denial by Zimbabwean police of peaceful political gatherings; the arbitrary arrest of electoral candidates; and the intimidation of Zimbabwean citizens violates the rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression of Zimbabweans, members of the political opposition and human rights defenders.”
The new constitution that was gazetted by Robert Mugabe earlier this year is meant to uphold these rights and the rights of citizens to partake in political activities like campaigning.
But SALC’s Director Nicole Fritz said the “uneven application of laws in Zimbabwe means these rights are not being upheld.”
“The activities of the police, and certainly the incident involving Arnold Tsunga, suggest that it’s much of the same as we head towards elections, in that those in the political opposition will be targeted and the rules governing free and fair elections won’t be applied equally,” Fritz said.
She added: “This is reason for concern that we won’t see free and fair polls.”
Tsunga’s and Pfebve’s arrests come as the targeting of MDC supporters has continued to rise, along with the intimidation and clampdown of civil society groups. Fritz said this situation casts doubt on the credibility of the polls.
“These incidents suggest that not only are we going to see fraud and vote rigging in the elections, but we are also going to see explicit intimidation and possibly violence. And that is very concerning, because Zimbabwe can ill afford for this to happen again,” Fritz warned.
SALC called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the election observers deployed by SADC and the African Union to “investigate and address the recent incarceration of Mr. Tsunga, and to ensure that the rights of all stakeholders are respected and protected during this important time.”