THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) strongly condemns the disgraceful and shocking conduct of some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members, who ambushed and severely assaulted human rights lawyer Kudzayi Kadzere while he was discharging his professional duties on Saturday January 14, 2023.
Kadzere, a member of ZLHR, was assaulted by several ZRP members in Harare’s Budiriro high-density suburb after he had attended to offer legal support to 25 leaders and members of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change political party, who had been arrested.
He was waylaid and bundled into a ZRP truck, where he was assaulted by police officers, who used truncheons and fists in bludgeoning him.
He sustained injuries, including a fractured hand and was left wearing a plaster cast.
The next day, when he was in the process of making a police report for assault at Harare Central Police Station, Kadzere, who was accompanied by his lawyer Nontokozo Dube-Tachiona of ZLHR, was arrested and charged with criminal nuisance and escaping from lawful custody.
ZRP officers alleged that Kadzere escaped from lawful custody the previous day.
His lawyers managed to secure his release from police custody on the same day to allow him to be attended to by medical doctors and he was scheduled to appear in court on Thursday January 19, 2023 to answer to charges of criminal nuisance and escaping from lawful custody.
ZLHR is alarmed by the assault of Kadzere while executing his professional duties of representing his clients, who had been arrested in Budiriro and strongly condemns the brutal actions of the police.
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The physical assault of a lawyer while carrying out his professional duties is a clear sign of ZRP’s outright disregard for constitutional protections and regional and international human rights standards, which oblige all State actors to ensure that lawyers are able to carry out their duties without fear or favour and enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as other people of Zimbabwe.
The barbaric assault of Kadzere is in violation of section 219 of the Constitution, which mandates the police service to protect and secure the lives of people and also violates section 208 of the Constitution, which prohibits police officers from violating the fundamental rights or freedoms of people.
The callous actions by ZRP also contravenes Zimbabwe’s obligations contained in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers that unequivocally state that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes.
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers require Zimbabwean authorities to ensure that lawyers discharge their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or interference; and are not subjected to or threatened with prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for performing their professional duties.
The physical assault on Kadzere indicates a deliberate and co-ordinated effort by Zimbabwean authorities to impede legal practitioners from undertaking their professional duties — at a time when the rule of law is under unprecedented assault.
For the rule of law to exist and to allow legal practitioners to be able to fulfil their role in defending the rights and freedoms of citizens, without fear of persecution or attack, ZLHR calls upon government to:
- Guarantee Kadzere’s safety and physical integrity and to ensure that legal practitioners are able to carry out their work free of fear, harassment or intimidation and to adequately protect the safety and independence of all lawyers and end the culture of impunity;
- Take immediate, meaningful steps to enable lawyers to carry out their professional duties safely and independently, and protect them against intimidation, threats and reprisals;
- Promptly and thoroughly investigate the assault of Kadzere with the aim of identifying those responsible and holding perpetrators accountable in order to serve justice and to prevent re-occurrence of violations;
- Fully comply with and create awareness about the core values underlying the legal profession, amongst others by bringing the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to the attention of ZRP and other relevant stakeholders;
- Expedite the establishment of the Independent Complaints Mechanism as provided in section 210 of the Constitution, with the mandate of receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct of the police.
- Allow legal practitioners to carry out their professional duties without interference and not to identify them with their clients’ causes. - ZLHR
Time running out for full implementation of electoral reforms
THE Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) in partnership with the Women and Law in Southern Africa with support from the Netherlands Embassy between December 4 and 9, 2022 travelled to Goromonzi and Hurungwe and conducted training of trainers sessions with 100 aspiring women leaders on electoral reforms and the law.
The training sessions on electoral reforms equipped the participants with knowledge on what electoral reforms are and why it is important to push for their implementation.
The women have already begun imparting the same on other aspiring women leaders creating a network and movement of women advocating for reforms.
The women identified that the police are a critical arm of the State as they maintain law and order.
However, it is important to note that electoral violence in Zimbabwe does not normally take place on polling day and so deploying huge numbers of police officers on polling day, which is usually peaceful, does not address violence that takes place before and after polling day.
At the end of the meetings, the women noted that:
Government has taken long to implement gender equality provisions of the Constitution (sections 17, 56 and 80) which guarantee equality.
It has not aligned the Electoral Act with the Constitution in order to ensure gender balance.
Aspiring women leaders have limited access to both public and private media and when they are covered they are usually portrayed in a negative manner.
Cases of hate speech and inflammatory language against aspiring women leaders are increasing as the country heads towards the national elections.
Incidences of violence, harassment, intimidation and sexual harassment against aspiring women leaders are on an increase.
The steep nomination fees for candidates proclaimed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will discourage women from running for public office.
The women leaders vowed to continue engaging government to put in place mechanisms that create a conducive environment for women to excel in leadership and decision making positions. - Walpe
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