Amnesty International (AI) has raised concerns about the arrest of 26 Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists in Zimbabwe, describing it as a chilling warning of a potentially violent election ahead. The activists were arrested on Saturday for violating the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) after they held an internal party meeting at CCC legislator Costa Machingauta’s house in Budiriro.
AI’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Flavia Mwangovya, has stated that the arrest is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and is a clear sign that the Zimbabwean government will not hesitate to go after anyone who opposes them in the upcoming elections. Mwangovya also called for the immediate release of the activists and for charges against them to be dropped, as well as for Zimbabwean authorities to respect the right to freedom of assembly leading up to the election.
The arrest of these activists, including three senior citizens aged 83, 72 and 61, a minor girl (17) and another member of parliament, Amos Chibaya, has caused alarm among human rights groups and political opposition parties. The minor girl was granted free bail and the other 25 are yet to be freed.
Additionally, lawyer Kadzere Kudzai, who was initially sent to represent the CCC activists after their arrest, was brutally assaulted by police officers while attending to his clients and was later on arrested and charged with criminal nuisance and allegedly trying to escape from police custody.
As Zimbabwe prepares to hold its harmonized elections in the coming months, these developments have raised questions about the government’s commitment to a fair and peaceful election process. The international community will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the rights of all citizens, including political opposition members, are respected and protected.