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Four civil society activists who were seized by police at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport as they returned from an international human rights workshop were Tuesday charged with subverting a constitutional government.
The four, who work for pro-democracy NGOs, are Tatenda Mombeyarara (Citizens Manifesto), George Makoni (Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe), Frank Mpahlo (Transparency International) and Gamuchirai Mukura (Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development).
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which is providing legal assistance, the four have been charged for “participating in a meeting held in Maldives during an unknown period, where a plot was hatched to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government from power through civil disobedience.”
They are expected to be brought before a Harare magistrate Wednesday.
They join a growing list of NGO activists and opposition politicians who have been accused of plotting against a regime that was ironically installed through a November 2017 coup against then President Robert Mugabe.
The Zanu PF led government is keen to subdue all prominent independent voices that could easily inflame an already volatile situation occasioned by continued increases in fuel and other essential commodities.
Government has said the arrested activists were among individuals that were being “watched”.
Meanwhile, the arrests on the four has elicited wide condemnation from teachers unions and other local civic groups.
In a statement Tuesday, Heal Zimbabwe Trust described the arrests as “unwarranted” and an attempt to silence civic voices in democratic processes.
“This approach by government further sets government on a collision course with CSOs, a scenario that defeats the critical role played by CSOs in being the government watchdog.
“This role helps in monitoring government activities and holding it to account to citizens,” Heal Zimbabwe said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe also described the arrests as “barbaric” and an “embarrassing indictment of our democracy”.
Added the teachers group, “This persecution makes it difficult for the citizens to collectively call for removal of sanctions. If our state cannot guarantee security of its own citizens then we have to seek international support to force state actors to respect human rights.
“The state should focus on fixing the economy and curbing corruption rather than victimising innocent citizens.”