Speaking at a press conference in the capital soon after the sentencing of Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others, civic leaders expressed concern over the persecution of civic leaders in the country.
Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional Director said civil society was totally against the persecution, conviction and sentence of Munyaradzi Gwisai and six others arrested in February 2011 while watching a video footage of the Egyptian revolution.
“As civil society leaders we totally reject this kind of political persecution in the form of legal prosecution, we find that this charade was baseless,” Mavhinga said.
“There was no need for them to go through all this suffering…we believe this is an excessive form of punishment that is without basis but really a form of political punishment.”
Grace Chirenje of the Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace building said the accusations were baseless accusing the government of muting the people’s voice. Chirenje urged Zimbabweans to stand up and fight for their rights.
Japhet Moyo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) took a swipe at parliamentarians accusing them of failing to repeal repressive laws saying, “Nothing has changed. The situation that we are going through now is what we have been experiencing in the last ten years or so.”
Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Matombo- ZCTU faction, encouraged people to watch more videos of the Egyptian revolution as President Mugabe and company were not arrested or incarcerated when they watched videos of Patrice Lumumba in 1963.
Majongwe went on to say that people should not rest until this oppressive system of governance is overthrown. The combative trade unionist added that no-one should be threatened by mere convictions and sentences.
“There is nothing to celebrate about the suspended sentence and community service, it means they cannot come to attend any meetings because once they are arrested, they go straight to Chikurubi,” added Majongwe.
Lovemore Matombo urged people to demonstrate for peace in the streets. He challenged people not to tire making statements on their positions with regards to governance issues.
Okay Machisa, Zimrights Director pledged to lead the demonstrations once people decide to take to the streets.
“There is something that we can do, if it means marching lets do it now,” Machisa charged.
National Constitution Assembly (NCA) chairperson, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said there was nothing wrong about what Gwisai and others had done.
“There are two ways of overthrowing a government, one is through an election and the second method is through mass mobilization and it is perfectly legitimate for any society to organize against a government…There’s no purpose of elections if a government steals the elections…” said Madhuku.
Gwisai was arrested on 19 February 2011 together with 45 other human rights activists, initially charged with treason. 39 from the group were cleared of treason charges in March 2011 leaving Gwisai and five others to languish in jail. However the charges against Gwisai and others were later changed to conspiracy to commit public violence, charges they vehemently denied.
By Thomas Madhuku and Mercy Ngwebvu