ZIMBABWE: DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK AS ‘AVONDALE 78’ DENIED RIGHT TO BAIL

Phillis Pikitai outside a court in Harare with a sign that reads #FreeTima #FreeAvondale78

A flash protest has been organised for Tuesday 9 July, at 3pm, at Parliament Square in London asking for the release of the ‘Avondale 78’, who remain in unlawful detention since 16 June amid growing repression.

Multiple arrests have been made since of those calling for their release or attending peaceful gatherings, and members of the government have made increasingly open threats of violence.

On June 16, 78 citizens including former Senator Jameson Timba were unlawfully arrested, assaulted, and detained in the suburb of Avondale on the outskirts of Harare while attending a party at the former Senator’s residence. Those attending the peaceful gathering, including 29 women, were accused of holding an “unauthorised gathering”. Reports on the ground suggest that they were assaulted, with one woman appearing to have a broken leg.

The bail hearing due on the 25 June was delayed at the last minute until the 27 June, and was then denied, despite bail being a right under the constitution. The 78 have now been held in detention for 18 days. A bail hearing is due 10 July 2024.

Escalating violence and rhetoric

  • On 27 June, President Emmanuel Mnangagwa said those believed to be causing trouble would “be dealt with”.
  • On 27 June, Reuters reports that Zimbabwean police beat dozens of opposition supporters and arrested several outside the Harare court holding the bail hearing.
  • On the 29 June, the Zimbabwe Republic Police reported on twitter that they had arrested five more people at a private gathering.
  • On 28 June, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Dr Muswere MP in a statement warned those “involved in subversive activities” that “their days were numbered…”
  • Lawyer for the Avondale 78 Agency Gumbo, who is also a sitting MP, reports having been warned yesterday (2 July) of being arrested too.

The diaspora community and human rights organisations have called upon the Zimbabwean authorities to immediately release the 78 under bail conditions, as is their right under section 50(1)(d) the Zimbabwean constitution.

Said Patricia Chinyoka, founder of Women of Zimbabwe:

“These arrests are unlawful and unconstitutional. Failure to release the Avondale 78 on bail undermines the rights of every Zimbabwean citizen and should not be tolerated in a democracy. For how long shall the Zimbabwe authorities continue to persecute innocent Zimbabweans who are perceived to have different views to them? The UK diaspora community condemns the systematic jailing of people on politically-motivated grounds.”

Said Tricia Sibbons, director of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA):

” What we are seeing in Zimbabwe is increasing repression, using arbitrary detention and increasingly open threats from members of President Mnangagwa’s regime. Zimbabweans have rights enshrined both in international law and their own constitution which are being violated in what seems like attempts to shut down all democratic freedoms.”

Representatives of UK diaspora organisations are calling on the international community to join them in calling for the release of the Avondale 78 and all those held on politically-motivated grounds. Join us in a protest at 3pm, on Tuesday 9 July, at Parliament Square. Speakers to include member of the Zimbabwean diaspora and Lord Johnny Oates.

This media release is issued by the collective representatives of Women of Zimbabwe and Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).

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