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ZIMBABWEAN opposition supporters have said the country is turning into a “giant prison” as the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa intensifies oppression in the face of mass protests.
The crackdown has seen the jailing of journalists and politicians on spurious charges, including Godfrey Kurauone, national youth organiser of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who was locked up for 42 days for singing a protest song at the funeral of a party member in July.
Internationally acclaimed author and film-maker Tsitsi Dangarembga spent a night in detention for standing by a Harare road while holding up a placard reading: “We want better. Reform our institutions.”
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was jailed for six weeks before being released on bail. He faces charges of inciting violence for tweeting about an anti-government protest.
Human rights groups allege that hundreds of government opponents are being detained and tortured for speaking out against Mr Mnangagwa’s government as anger grows over deepening poverty and his poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
ZimRights said that it had recorded 820 “human rights violations” such as arbitrary arrests, assaults by state agents, attacks on journalists, abductions, “gunshot assaults” and dog bites between the end of March, when lockdown measures were introduced, and August 9.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights claimed that it has represented around 60 people accused of insulting the president since he came to power in 2017, following the coup end the 37-year rule of his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Mr Mnangagwa denied that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, accusing the MDC of training overseas renegades “to come and cause mayhem and violence.”
But MDC leader Nelson Chamisa responded that the accusations were “part of tactics to wipe us out.
“We are being treated like a banned organisation. We can’t even hold meetings without risking arrest,” he said, accusing the government of creating “a giant prison for all of us.”
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