Democracy activists are expressing concern at the detention of Madock Chivasa, chairperson of Zimbabwe’s Youth Forum and spokesperson for the National Constitutional Assembly, after he was arrested Thursday evening along with several other activists.
Five members of the Chivasa family were severely assaulted last year by over 30 ZANU-PF members, using staves, shamboks and whips.
The arrest of Chivasa is the latest in a series of arrests of democracy activists that prompted the Africa Democracy Forum, a network of over 450 democracy and human rights groups, to express concern and solidarity with Zimbabwe’s “courageous” civil society.
After meeting with over a dozen humanitarian, human rights, media, and religious groups, labor unions, youth and student movements, and concerned residents, a recent ADF delegation noted that there was “a more open, but still very limited, space” for civil society activities since the formation of the Government of National Unity on 11 February. But the delegation also found that many civil society groups were anxious about the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by ZANU-PF and two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change on 15 September 2008.
Frank Muchirahondo, a USAID employee arrested last month on allegations of attempting to assassinate Air Force Commander Perence Shiri, was freed this week. A Bindura magistrate rejected police requests to place Muchirahondo, who was reportedly beaten and tortured, on further remand.
President Robert Mugabe’s regime murdered more than 193 people last year as it sought to suppress the democratic opposition, notes the US State Department’s annual human rights report. “The ruling party’s dominant control and manipulation of the political process through violence, intimidation, and corruption effectively negated the right of citizens to change their government,” the report states.
Leaders and supporters of opposition parties and civil society groups were killed, beaten, tortured, abducted and arrested. At the end of 2008, 32 citizens remained either in police custody without charge or were listed as missing
Zimbabwe has asked its southern African neighbors for $2bn (£1.4bn) to revive its collapsed economy. But foreign donors are refusing to cough up further aid until they are convinced that newly-appointed finance minister, Tendai Biti, is able to assert his authority over central bank governor, Gideon Gono, a crony of President Mugabe held responsible for the hyperinflation.