US slams arrest of Zim activists

Farirayi Kahwemba

The United States has condemned the arrest of 39 Civil Society Organization (CSO) members by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on August 23, saying the development is likely to damage the credibility of the country’s harmonized credibility.

The ZRP, who have confirmed the arrests, said they had gathered information that the civil society members were intending to release election results just before they raided their offices.

Both the US State Department and USAID have called on the Zimbabwe government to release all those who have been arrested and described their continued incarceration as “a worrying development for human rights in Zimbabwe.”

Said US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller: “The police raid on civil society conducting legitimate election observation demonstrates the government of Zimbabwe’s lack of respect for free and fair elections. Dismayed at the lengths they will go to undermine their own election’s credibility.”

USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings, who echoed similar sentiments, said the arrested individuals were associated with the Election Resource Centre and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

“We are gravely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the individuals taken by the police. We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to urgently release all of these individuals, return their property, and allow the work of election observers to continue unobstructed.

“These actions do not reflect the Government of Zimbabwe’s expressed commitment to free, fair, and transparent electoral processes. By harassing and detaining civil society actors, including election observers, the Government of Zimbabwe damages its reputation and international relations,” said Jennings.

“These actions also contradict assurances by Zimbabwean authorities to international partners that non-governmental organizations would be allowed to observe the elections and issue independent findings.

“This is a worrying development for human rights in Zimbabwe, and it undermines democracy and respect for human rights. The United States also reiterates its commitment to the people of Zimbabwe as they seek to peacefully conclude the electoral process,” said Jennings.

While the US has maintained sanctions on Zimbabwe over what it labels gross human rights abuses, the two countries continue to enjoy significant trade relations.

In 2021, Zimbabwe’s exports to the US were valued at US$9.27million including iron, steel and raw commodities such as tea and tobacco, according to the UN’s Comtrade database on international trade.

The US is also Zimbabwe’s single biggest donor, providing US$317m in bilateral assistance to support democracy and governance, agriculture, and health programmes in 2021, in addition to US $51m in humanitarian aid.

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