Zimbabwe yesterday told the West to go hang after heads of missions from Western countries criticised the government over the way it handled demonstrations organised by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change last Friday.
In a statement issued by the Heads of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States of America, the Western countries said intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – were cause for great concern.
“The Zimbabwean constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights, and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible,” the statement said.
“The Heads of Mission call on the authorities to respect the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression as well as to peaceful protest, and urge all political party leaders and supporters to abstain from threats and incitement to violence as well as acts of violence or vandalism. The security forces must adhere to their Constitutional mandate and exercise restraint and proportionality while maintaining public order.
“Only by addressing concretely and rapidly these human rights violations will the Government of Zimbabwe give credibility to its commitments to address longstanding governance challenges. The Heads of Mission reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.”
In response, Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said Zimbabwe had been taken aback by the intrusive and judgmental attitude displayed by the missions and the shocking partisanship informing their joint statement.
“The statement by the missions fails to acknowledge that the High Court made a well-considered judgment on the legality of the demonstrations by the opposition MDC-Alliance after the Zimbabwe Republic Police- as the regulatory authority- proscribed the intended actions on August 16, through a prohibition order.
“The effect of both the prohibition order and the High Court decision that upheld it was to render any and all activities associated with the planned demonstrations by MDC-Alliance on August 16, 2019 illegal.”
Mangwana said the statement by the Missions appeared not to acknowledge this position of the law.
“A disturbing suggestion from the statement is that our courts should not have made the judgment and that illegalities were supposed to manifest and left unchecked,” he said.
“We find it quite strange and bewildering and an offence on the principle of the rule of law that countries represented by the Missions want so much to preach about.
Mangwana said Zimbabwe’s judiciary was the arbiter in situations of conflict. A decision, which ought to have been respected by all, was made.
“It is instructive to note that up to the point of the missions’ statement being issued, the police were not in contempt of any court order regarding the issue of protests and demonstrations, neither had a suit of such nature been brought forward,” he said.
“For the foreign missions to totally ignore the fact that Zimbabwe courts had spoken on this matter suggests a contemptuous attitude towards our institutions including our judiciary.
“Government of Zimbabwe expects those countries committed to supporting the freedom of expression, association and assembly – seen as the facets for a politically stable, economically stable and prosperous Zimbabwe- to exercise impartiality and not to unduly interfere in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe in a way that promotes unrest and public disorder unless they harbour an ulterior motive.”
Mangwana said Zimbabwe remained committed to carrying out reforms to address the political, social and economic challenges that the country was facing and was open to engaging its partners in the international community but this re-engagement and dialogue should be conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and should not be in any way prescriptive, coercive or manipulative.
As for national dialogue, Mangwana said, the door was open to all political players to join the process under the Political Actors Dialogue.