By Kitsepile Nyathi
Zimbabwean police on Tuesday charged three opposition activists with violating Covid-19 regulations, two weeks after they were reportedly abducted while in detention.
The three women, including a Member of Parliament, were initially arrested on May 13 before they went missing and were found two days later. They had been tortured.
They were found by the road, 80 kilometres north of Harare, and have been in hospital since then.
Two freelance journalists who tried to interview the activists have also been charged with violating the coronavirus lockdown regulations.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said MP Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova from the opposition MDC Alliance have also been charged with “gathering with intent to promote public violence and breach of peace.”
“The charges come at a time when Mamombe, Chimbiri and Marova are receiving treatment following their abduction, disappearance and torture on May 13,” ZLHR said. “No arrests have been made to date for the enforced disappearance, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”
Police say the activists were part of an illegal protest in the capital Harare on the day they disappeared. On that day, some residents took to the streets demonstrating against food shortage.
After withering criticism from western governments and local church leaders, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said it was investigating the alleged abductions.
The government denied any responsibility and suggested a third force was behind the abductions of its critics.
Civil society groups say at least 50 activists have been abducted since last year and no one has been charged for the crimes.