On behalf of members of the Africans Rising Movement, we are saddened by the inhumane and unjust persecution that is being carried out by the Government of Zimbabwe, which has led to the arrest of approximately 600 citizens including comrades Pastor Evan Mawarire and Robson Chere. 

Zimbabwe held its first elections post-Mugabe’s 37-year-rule last July, which created optimism for change – quickly muted by post-election violence. On January 12, the new government announced an estimated 150% hike in fuel prices (equal to more than $3.31 a gallon in a country where most people live on less than $5.50 per day). The Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions called for a peaceful 3-day general strike and was quickly joined by many citizens who were eager to express their frustrations with the new regulations. The government brutally suppressed the mobilization, shutting down the internet and systematically targeting grassroots organizers in their homes, particularly men accused of inciting violence.

Media reports have stated that on Wednesday 16th of January, 2019, the Zimbabwe police armed with ammunitions including AK47 arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire at his residence while claiming that his involvement in mobilizing citizens to demonstrate against the hike in fuel prices and food shortage was destructive to the state. Pastor Evan Mawarire, a notable activist for social justice is charged with inciting violence. Multiple videos have surfaced on Social Media with Pastor Mawarire calling on citizens to mobilize and protest against the continuous inflation of fuel prices. He advised that citizens remain peaceful and preached non-violence. It is therefore absurd that Zimbabwean authorities are accusing Pastor Mawarire of inciting violence when he was actually deterring violence through his preachings.

In addition to Pastor Mawarire, comrade Robson Chere, the Secretary-General of the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has been arrested by security forces and to this day we have been unable to establish contact with him. Robson Chere has demonstrated tremendous courage and humanism throughout his continuous fight for social justice and fair treatment of rural teachers in his country. In a statement he released on Monday, January 14th 2019; the first day of the #Zimbabweshutdown demonstrations, Comrade Robson Chere urged “parents to keep their kids at home for the safety of learners”. The Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe values the safety and wellbeing of both students and children and it is unfortunate that the government of Zimbabwe resumes to persecuting their leaders.

We deplore the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators which has led to the killing of at least 8 citizens of Zimbabwe while many were severely injured. In the aftermath of the #Zimshutdown protests, the government of Zimbabwe proceeded to shut down the internet on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019, then restored it the following day while blocking access to Social Media sites. This desperate move by the government of Zimbabwe is a grave violation of freedom of speech and assembly which are guaranteed under the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.  

Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity calls on the government of Zimbabwe to stop the carnage against its citizens as they are only asking to live in dignity. Beyond our concern about the safety of the numerous activists and protesters that were apprehended by the government, we are seriously worried about the wellbeing of the people of Zimbabwe as food shortages have lead people to queue hours on end to buy commodities leaving millions susceptible to famine. The first duty that a government owes its citizens is that of protection, however, the government of Zimbabwe is failing at protecting its people from resource scarcity. Rather, it opted to abuse them when they revolted against the misery which they are forced to endure.

REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

It must not become the norm for a government to shut down the Internet in a bid to crack down on protests, nor is it acceptable to randomly arrest, detain, and torture activists for demanding accountability. The Africa we want starts with a citizenry that is awake and active, one that will hold its government accountable for their successes and most importantly, their failures. No African must be denied their right to have an accountable, responsible, and transparent government.

We are calling on all the regional bodies such as the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to uphold their responsibility and ensure the protection of the people of Zimbabwe. In addition, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of our members Pastor Evan Mawarire, Robson Chere, and others who are being punished for exercising their basic human right, free speech.

We reiterate our solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and call on all the active forces of democracy and justice to rise in solidarity with our sisters and brothers. Our movement pledges to do the necessary to support the people of Zimbabwe and we would like to express our sincerest condolences to the families of violence victims. 

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