One Last Plea for Detained Zimbabweans
Innocent Zimbabweans are no strangers to injustice, considering the grotesque reputation of the ZANU-PF, led by notorious dictator Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is famous for flouting basic human rights and international disapproval on a regular basis. The past several weeks saw a particularly noteworthy display of Mugabe’s brand of injustice, in the midst of international frenzy over pro-democratic revolutions in the Arab world. For those who have not been following the latest developments in Zimbabwe, I will give a quick briefing.
On February 19, a group of 46 Zimbabwean activists (including some activists’ children) were detained for viewing footage of the recent revolutionary activity in Tunisia and Egypt. These people were literally detained for watching video footage. Of the 46 captured, 45 were held on charges of treason, a crime punishable by death in Zimbabwe. These prisoners were severely mistreated and tortured while in police custody. Prisoners in need of medication, such as for the treatment of HIV and asthma, were flat-out denied medical attention of any kind. The ramifications also extended to their families who may be dependent on income from those imprisoned. Of course, none of this stopped Mugabe from celebrating his 87th birthday in extravagant fashion two days later.
On March 8, 39 of the original 45 were freed, leaving the remaining six to face treason charges. The names of the remaining six are Tafadzwa Choto, Welcome Zimuto, Eddson Chakuma, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Munyaradzi Gwisai and Hopewell Gumbo. Tafadzwa has been denied her necessary asthma medication and is suffering frequent asthma attacks as a result.
It seems that revolutionary activity in North Africa and the Middle East has offered Mugabe some shelter from international awareness. Nevertheless, supporters of human rights around the world have expressed their condemnation of ZANU-PF’s recent actions and continue to do so via protests, donations for legal/medical aid, and phone calls and emails to Zimbabwean officials. Outside influence may be difficult with a regime like ZANU-PF, but it is not impossible.
As of today (March 16), the remaining six have been granted bail at US$2 000 each, totalling US$12 000. They have been given several conditions severely restricting their mobility and will appear in court again on March 21. These brave individuals have almost won their lives back (albeit with restrictions) – the most urgent task now is to collect sufficient funds in order to pay each prisoner’s bail, which requires the help of human rights supporters abroad. Your assistance is urgently needed and you can still contribute in a number of ways.
March 17 UPDATE: The remaining six prisoners have managed to pay their bail and are now out of custody and spending time with loved ones. Their next court hearing is scheduled for March 21.
March 21 UPDATE: At the court hearing today, court was remanded until April 20. The defendants intend to apply for refusal of further remand should the state fail to provide a trial date. In the meantime, the state is expected to begin investigations. Human rights supporters around the world protested today in support of the victims. Supporters continue to demand that ZANU-PF drop all charges.
April 12 UPDATE: Eddson Chakuma, one of the six still facing treason charges, is fired for missing work when he was illegally detained and tortured. His lawyer is preparing an appeal. To find out more, click here.
April 20 UPDATE: At today’s court date for the treason case, a trial date of July 18, 2011 was set. The defense lawyer is applying for the relaxation of the bail conditions.
July 18 UPDATE: At today’s court date, the judge conceded to being uncomfortable with the case. The case was then postponed to August 22, over which another judge will preside. The charge was changed to conspiracy to cause public violence.
March 19, 2012 UPDATE: A year after the initial sentencing, the innocent “Zim 6″ activists have been jerked around and have had one hollow court case after another thrown at them in vain attempts to punish them for daring to watch Youtube footage in a group setting. On March 19, 2012, the activists have received a guilty verdict – they are convicted of trying to incite violence against the government. Their sentence is scheduled to be given on March 21, 2012. Possible sentences range from $500 to 10 years in prison, with the latter being demanded by the prosecutor. Please continue to send messages of solidarity for the activists to the phone numbers and emails listed below. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!
March 19, 2012 UPDATE: Each of the Zim 6 have been sentenced to 420 hours of community service and a $500 fine. They also have a 5 year probation period. If they ‘reoffend’ during that period, they will receive 2 years in prison. The good news is that there is no outright jailtime as was suspected. However, the probation period means that ZANU-PF now have 5 years to easily come up with more bogus charges and send the activists to prison. Because even a single charge or conviction is utterly unjust and undeserved, the Zim 6 will appeal this sentencing and will continue to fight for complete exoneration.
What you can do
To call for their release by phone, please call:
+263-4-777-777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +263-4-777-777 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (Harare Central Police Station)
To call for their release online, please email:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
And resend the email to:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
For more information and to donate money (of any amount), please visit:
For ongoing updates, please join the following Facebook groups:
“Calling for the Release of Zimbabwean Activists”
“ZIMBABWEANS FOR FREEDOM”
*Note: This article was written in order to generate and spread awareness. Please send this and/or other similar articles to whoever you can and please help out in any way you are able to (and ask others to do the same). Time is of the essence.
*Sources: This article was informed by the above listed websites and Facebook groups, as well as personal communication with an academic/activist based in South Africa.