WESTERN governments on Friday teamed up to criticise President Robert Mugabe’s administration over its poor human rights record which worsened this week after Zimbabwean authorities suppressed two anti-government protests.
Police on Wednesday used truncheons, teargas and water cannon to break up a demonstration organised by opposition MDC-T youths in Harare protesting against rising incidents of police brutality against civilians.
On Thursday, police arrested and charged 13 men for allegedly committing public violence during Wednesday’s anti-government protest during which some shops were looted and roads barricaded as anger against Mugabe’s rule escalates in the troubled southern African country.
On Friday, police deployed personnel at Freedom Square, a popular gathering spot for opposition activities, where they dispersed protesters and fired teargas to thwart a protest organised by a coalition of opposition political parties including former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe’s estranged ally Joice Mujuru.
The demonstration, endorsed by major opposition parties, was aimed at forcing Mugabe’s Zanu PF led government to implement electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 vote.
The police suppression of the protest took place despite human rights lawyers who represented the coalition of political parties winning a court order overturning the police ban of the march.
Western governments among them, the United States of America called on the government to exhibit restraint and respect the human rights of all Zimbabwean citizens.
“We urge everyone to engage in non-violent discourse and for all those involved in protests, participants and law enforcement alike – to abstain from violence and intimidation and seek peaceful resolutions. Violence is never acceptable,” reads part of the US embassy statement in which Washington criticised the government for threatening to crack down on activists using social media.
“We fear these threats will further limit the right of Zimbabweans to exercise freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, which are enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution, protected under Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations, and core values of any functioning democracy,” the US embassy said.
The Australian Embassy called on the government to respect the rule of law, human rights, right to free speech, freedom of assembly and other democratic freedoms.
“We encourage the government of Zimbabwe to ensure the democratic freedoms of all Zimbabweans are fully protected,” reads part of the statement issued by the Australian embassy.
Canada urged the government to ensure that “public policing and justice are consistent with the government’s constitutional obligation to respect basic human rights and freedoms.”
Tension has been rising in Zimbabwe as the country’s political and economic crisis worsens.
In recent months, pro-democracy campaigners have been rolling out protests almost on a weekly basis against Mugabe’s clueless administration over worsening economic hardships, rising poverty levels, cash shortages and high unemployment.
Critics blame Mugabe, who is now aged 92 years for presiding over the country’s economic and political catastrophe, a charge which the nonagenarian leader denies and blames western governments for sponsoring opposition groups to topple him from power.
However, opposition political parties and rights groups deny Mugabe’s charges.