The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) is deeply concerned and condemns the failure by the political parties to ensure the release of Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Frank Muchirahondo and Daniel Mlenga, both USAID employees, and many other prisoners of conscience from Chikurubi Prison and other places of detention. We strongly believe that they are being held on frivolous, trumped-up political charges, which have no substance at law. Further, it is becoming increasingly evident that political prisoners were used as mere pawns by the political protagonists for political leverage.
The unanimous passing through Parliament of Constitutional Amendment No. 19 Bill on 5 February 2009 is clear testimony of the political parties’ unwavering commitment to the establishment of an inclusive government. The Forum is however concerned by MDC and ZANU PF’s failure to facilitate the release of the same political prisoners they used as political leverage in the negotiations. The release of the abductees from prison was one of the conditions that had been set by the MDC-T as a prerequisite for the establishment of the inclusive government. However, now that the negotiated process is almost completed, it is alarming to note that the abductees have been relegated to the doldrums of obscurity and their plight ignored as collateral damage.
It is our strong opinion that the MDC (both formations) should not be part of the inclusive government until and unless all abductees and political prisoners have been released and the charges against them dropped. Entering the government before the release of the abductees will be a grave betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe and the MDC’s commitment they had shown in their own resolution on the abductees.
The Forum therefore:
1. Calls upon the authorities, political parties and other state organs to provide for the immediate and unconditional release of all abductees, prisoners of conscience, political prisoners and civil society activists that have been arrested on frolicsome and phony charges;
2. Urges the MDC-T and MDC-M to abstain, postpone or withdraw from the swearing in ceremony scheduled for 11 February 2009 until the above mentioned demand has been implemented. In the event that the MDC decides
to join the government before the release of the political detainees we will be holding them equally accountable for the fate of the political prisoners. We are saddened to note that some of the detainees are now seriously ill and the
probability of death is very high unless they are released immediately and accorded proper medical attention without delay; and
3. Implores the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) to give effect to the letter and spirit of Article xviii of the Global Political Agreement, which guarantees the “Security of Persons and Prevention of Violence”, and take positive steps to ensure that all abductees are released from prison forthwith.