A SOUTH AFRICAN group of lawyers yesterday added its voice to the growing chorus of alarm on human rights abuses by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, chastising the Zanu PF leader for rising abuse under the guise of COVID-19 lockdown.
In a statement, the Johannesburg Society of Advocates (JSA) said it was concerned over arbitrary arrests of Mnangagwa’s political opponents as well as harassment of journalists and lawyers.
“The JSA strongly condemns the reported violations and the suppression of Zimbabweans’ fundamental human rights, which should be protected, upheld and fostered by the rule of law in every nation and in every situation,” part of the statement released yesterday read.
The statement comes after South African opposition parties and some ruling African National Congress officials have expressed worry over rights abuses by Mnangagwa that has triggered the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag.
The hashtag follow use of brute force by Mnangagwa in suppressing dissent, particularly ahead of the July 31 proposed protests against his rule.
“The JSA expresses its disapproval of the conduct recently attributed to the Zimbabwean government led by President Mnangagwa which has reportedly taken advantage of the lockdown regulations to crack down on any forms of dissent, arresting over 60 opposition politicians, activists and journalists on a variety of nebulous charges,” the lawyers said.
“Reports of unlawful arrests of persons as leverage for others in hiding to be given up, of the arrest of opposition political party members, of journalists and other outspoken people and of the arrest, abduction, torture and sexual assault of women in Zimbabwean society are the very hallmarks of gross human rights abuses by governments that do not respect the rule of law.”
The lawyers added: “It becomes more disturbing when the very people who are supposed to ensure that these rights are respected and upheld, themselves become victimised by their government.”
The lawyers cited the arrest of lawyers Patrick Tererai, Lawman Chimiuriwo, Tapiwa Makanza, Choice Damiso, Joshua Chirambwe, Dumisani Dube, Doug Coltart and Advocate Thabani Mpofu as a sad development in the country which violated principles of international law and the pronouncements of organisations such as the International Bar Association.
“To our legal colleagues in Zimbabwe, the JSA says that we stand in solidarity with you and salute your courage in pursuing the highest standards and traditions of our profession without fear, favour or prejudice,” they said.