We, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows from across the many nations of the African Continent, note with concern the on-going tensions in Zimbabwe and the deteriorating human rights and economic situation.
Of particular concern are reports of alleged abductions, assaults and torture of civic and political activists in recent weeks.
Several cases have recently been covered in the media, with the possibility of other unreported matters, as the alleged abductions are taking place mostly during the night.
The identity of the perpetrators is unknown. However, the targeted victims are activists and political opponents of the government.
We note that the Government of Zimbabwe has denied involvement in the abductions and torture of citizens.
Some senior members of the government acknowledge the abductions, but attribute the violations to a shadowy “Third Force”.
The opposition, on the other hand, blames the government.
We make no judgment on the matter, but what is clear to us is that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens.
This is the position under international law as well as the laws of Zimbabwe.
The spate of alleged abductions and torture, and the failure to apprehend perpetrators, and to stop these atrocities suggests a neglect of or a lack of regard for this duty to protect.
We also note that this is not the first time that citizens have been abducted and tortured in Zimbabwe.
Indeed, in some cases, the abductees have disappeared without a trace.
The distressing case of political activist Itai Dzamara who was abducted in 2015 is one such matter that remains unresolved.
We have also observed with dismay the use of force by the Government of Zimbabwe against citizens who have attempted to exercise their civil and political rights through peaceful protests.
Whilst we understand the need for lawful action by citizens and the need for the state to protect uphold legitimate law and order, we also find the use of excessive and disproportionate force to be disagreeable and distressing.
We are concerned that these attacks on citizens are continuing and that the principal targets are civic and political activists suspected of being aligned to the opposition.
Torture is absolutely prohibited under international law and also under the law of Zimbabwe.
There is simply no room for it.
There is also no room for extra-judicial punishment by members of the security services or anyone.
All suspects must be subjected to the due process of the law.
The indiscriminate and severe beating of citizens by members of the security services, which we have observed in the media, is tantamount to extra-judicial punishment.
We therefore express our serious concerns over the plight of Zimbabwean citizens.
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to take its responsibility to protect citizens seriously. In this regard,
We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to thoroughly investigate cases of alleged abduction and torture of citizens.
We also urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that members of the security services desist from using excessive and disproportionate force when dealing with members of the public.
We further urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that there is legal accountability for those who have perpetrated these heinous offences.
In addition, We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.
Finally, we are concerned that the economic situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate.
We urge the principal parties to find common ground between themselves and in this regard, to put the interests of ordinary citizens first.
The resolution of the severe economic challenges will be easier if the principal actors can find a peaceful solution to the political and economic challenges facing the country.
We further wish to express our solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe who continue to face many challenges and hardships.
“Rume rimwe harikombi churu”, we are with you.
The Tutu Fellows