Zimbabwe: Unblock internet and cease security sector attacks on civilians

This article was first published by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network.

Johannesburg: 16 January 2019

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) has

today called on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately unblock all internet

services, and to halt the ongoing use of lethal force against unarmed civilians.

The SAHRDN calls on the Zimbabwe government to recognize and guarantee the

rights of citizens to peaceful protests as enshrined in the Zimbabwe constitution

and international human rights instruments that Zimbabwe is party to.

On 14 January 2019, thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets in various

parts of the country to protest the announcement made by President Emmerson

Mnangagwa on the fuel price increase, as well as the dismal economic outlook

which is affecting the ability of Zimbaweans to enjoy socio-economic rights.

Following the protests on 14 January 2019, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

reported that several members of the Zimbabwe National Army (the military) and

the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) randomly carried out door-to-door raids in

high density suburbs through forced entry, by breaking down doors and windows.

Several residents in those areas were brutally assaulted by members of the

military and the ZRP and some have been detained.

In Harare, the military and the police shot at people resulting in some fatalities

and serious injuries. Properties were damaged and hundreds of protesters were

arrested. The headquarters of the opposition political party, the Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC) were set alight. Protesters were also injured and

arrested in Bulawayo, another major city in Zimbabwe.

On 15 January 2019, Zimbabwe’s government moved to block citizens’ access to

the internet, including social media and email, as protests continued to spread in

the country. Businesses and schools remain shut down in many parts of the

country and there continues to be heavy presence of the military and the police in

high density suburbs.

6 Sturdee Avenue Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196 RSA m:+27766758168

NPO Number: 211-513_NPO

“We condemn the excessive use of force to quell protests in Zimbabwe and urge

the security forces to exercise restraint” stated Timmothy Mtambo the Deputy

Chairperson of the SAHRDN and Executive Director of Center for Human Rights

and Rehabilitation (CHRR) in Malawi. “The involvement of the military (in

policing) is unlawful and unjustified in a functional democracy” added Mtambo.

The SAHRDN notes with regret the ready resort by the government of Zimbabwe

to use of the army and lethal force against unarmed civilians when faced with

protests arising from causes related to the mismanagement and dysfunctionality

of the economy.

“Less than a month ago, the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election violence led

by the former President of South Africa, Kgalema Montlanthe, found that the

police and the military used ‘unjustified and disproportionate’ force to kill 6

people during post-election protests in 2018” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, a

board member of the SAHRDN and Executive Director of the Southern Africa

Litigation Centre (SALC). “It is therefore quite disconcerting for us that while the

soldiers who used lethal force against civilians on 1 August 2018 have not been

brought to justice, the authorities have again deployed soldiers and armed

personnel in civilian clothes to harass and torment unarmed civilians” added


The SAHRDN notes that access to the internet is now an integral part and pre-

condition to enjoy the right to freedom of information and expression.

“It is now accepted that access to the internet is essential to the enjoyment of

rights” argued Lucia Da Silveira a board member of the SAHRDN and Executive

Director of AJPD Angola “We therefore strongly condemn the shutdown of the

internet as it shows that the government may have a sinister motive that it wants

to hide from the glare of the international community” added Da Silveira.

The SAHRDN therefore calls on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately fully

restore internet services to the people of Zimbabwe. The SAHRDN reminds the

government of Zimbabwe that internet shutdown violates international law – it

not only prevents public debate, but it also deprives Zimbabweans of access to

essential services and basic resources.

6 Sturdee Avenue Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196 RSA m:+27766758168

NPO Number: 211-513_NPO

The SAHRDN urges the government of Zimbabwe to recognize the right to

peaceful protest and further urges all Zimbabweans not to resort to vandalism

and destruction of property while exercising their constitutional rights. The

SAHRDN also urges all stakeholders and citizens to pursue grievances peacefully

and through the established legal channels.