By Leopold Munhende
“Half the population lives under extreme poverty, US$2.2 billion is lost to corruption annually and we have the highest hyperinflation rate in the world – all because those in power would rather loot and persecute than lead,” Fadzai Mahere told a packed United Nations (UN) auditorium in Geneva, Tuesday.
The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson’s no-holds-barred address was part of this year’s UN Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.
Mahere narrated her ordeal at the hands of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration which she laid into for its treatment of political opponents, prisoners, ‘abuse’ of state institutions and judicial capture.
She highlighted her treatment at Chikurubi Maximum Prison after her arrest on charges of undermining the authority of the police after she tweeted that a police officer had struck dead a baby with a baton stick in Harare.
“Two years ago, I woke up in an overcrowded jail cell in Zimbabwe’s Maximum Security Prison. No water. No toilet. No underwear. No dignity. No rights,” said Mahere.
“Inmates ate watery porridge with their bare hands because spoons are not allowed.
“Before lights were off, we had to line up in queues for roll call – groups A, B, C and D. D was for Dangerous. Even though the other women there had committed crimes such as murder, armed robbery and infanticide, I alone was put in the dangerous group. I had committed the dangerous crime of tweeting against police brutality.”
Mahere, who was recently found guilty of the crime and fined US$500 said her conviction, that of Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) President Jacob Ngarivhume and the continued incarceration of CCC member Job Sikhala was evidence Mnangagwa had weaponised the judiciary.
Ngarivhume was sentenced to four years in prison a few weeks ago while Sikhala is about to clock a year in pretrial detention.
Added Mahere: “The government’s war against freedom and its weaponisation of the law against myself and other government critics such as Sikhala and Ngarivhume is calculated to send a chilling message to the rest of society – We’re watching you, even on Twitter and this is the punishment you get for participating in opposition politics.”
With Zimbabwe’s general elections drawing closer, government is under increasing pressure to deliver a free and fair poll. A bid to rejoin the Commonwealth could ‘worsen’ scrutiny for Mnangagwa.
Mahere is expected to be announced by her party as its Harare North Parliamentary candidate. She told attendants the UN, Commonwealth and other likely observers should insist on a credible election.
“I would not risk my life and freedom if I did not sincerely believe that change is possible.
“This August, Zimbabweans go to the ballot box with one simple mission, to win Zimbabwe for change, to install ethical, competent leaders who believe in freedom, dignity and prosperity for everyone.
“The world must insist on the election being free, fair and credible. The will of the people has to prevail. It is difficult but we must emancipate the jewel of Africa from the imprisonment of its current dictatorship,” said Mahere.