Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) – Highlights 2008
ROHR was founded in 2007 out of the Vigil’s need for a presence on the ground in Zimbabwe to create a democratic space where people can act without fear. Here is a summary of their activities in Zimbabwe for 2008. We also report on ROHR activities in the UK and South Africa last year.
ROHR in Zimbabwe
25th January – 200 ROHR activists led by one of ROHR’s founders, Stendrick Zvorwardza, demonstrated in Harare carrying banners demanding peace, justice and freedom. They were beaten up by police and Sten and others, including ROHR Chairman Tichanzii Gandanga, were arrested. (23 were seriously injured including 2 ladies with broken arms. Sten was released on Monday, 28/01.)
10th February – Sten detained again. Text message from him to the Vigil “I have been brutalized by soldiers and arrested for saying Zanu PF is causing the suffering of Zimbabweans. I am in police custody and am in pain. Have been denied treatment. Despite all this, my spirit for fighting for our rights is getting stronger by the day.” (Sten was released a few days later but was being closely watched.)
26th April – Ephraim Tapa, President of ROHR, reported that ROHR official Tichanzii Gandanga had been abducted on Tuesday (22/04) and found in the bush 80 miles east of Harare on Thursday very badly injured. Apparently he was forced to lie down on the road and then his abductors drove over his legs four times.
3rd May – ROHR activists were at the Vigil in force to express their abhorrence at the violence being inflicted on opposition supporters. Stendrick briefed the Vigil on ROHR’s plans for actions in Zimbabwe.
18th May – ROHR activists Godfrey Kauzani and Cain Nyeve, who were abducted last week by state security agents, have been found dead in Goromonzi. Cain Nyeve's eyes were missing, suggesting that he was tortured.
21st May – ROHR has learnt with shock of the murder of Tonderai Ndira (33), one of its members, who was abducted from his Mabvuku home on Wednesday 14th May by 9 heavily armed police. Ndira was also the Provincial Secretary for Security in MDC-T.
21st May – At the burial of Cain Nyeve and Godfrey Kauzani a mob of more than 100 Zanu PF thugs drove away mourners with stones and sticks leaving behind the two coffins in uncovered graves.
22nd June – Over 300 people gathered at the Grace Ablaze Ministries International church to join ROHR in commemorating the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. ROHR pledged 30 blankets and groceries for the victims of violence who were present at the event.
14th July – ROHR is launching an ongoing arts festival in an effort to counter political violence and explore democratic space. It is working with Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights and their first event will be held in Kadoma on Saturday 19th July.
31st July - At a Vigil Management Team meeting the possibility of setting up a fund to support victims of the election violence in Zimbabwe was discussed. It was pointed out that our partner ROHR had already contributed substantial money to support victims of violence, most notably helping to pay for Tonderai Ndira’s funeral and providing Tichanzii Gandanga with the means to leave Zimbabwe to get treatment in South Africa. It was agreed that it would be duplication to set up a separate fund and that we should channel any money through ROHR.
25th September – ROHR has today taken the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to court over the central bank's failure to review bank withdrawal limits in line with the economic situation.
10th October – More than 200 ROHR activists took to the streets of Harare today at 10.00 hours in a protest march. The demonstration was staged under the Demand for Democracy and Justice Campaign whose primary aim is to see Zimbabwe hold fresh elections for a new government and a leader of the people’s choice within two years. The police reacted by raiding ROHR offices and briefly detained ROHR programmes officer Mrs Mapanzure.
17th October – ROHR’s protest in Mutare attracted more than 150 people. The demonstration was however broken up by Zanu-PF youths. Clifford Hlatshwayo, our co-ordinator responsible for the Demand for Democracy and Justice Campaign, was severely injured.
27th October - 23 men and women have been hospitalised and seven arrested after ROHR demonstrated in Harare today. Four people are missing after having been abducted by Zanu PF. More than 200 ROHR activists participated in the demonstration that brought business to a standstill. The protesters marched towards the Harare International Conference Centre, the venue for this week’s SADC meeting.
28th October - More than 100 people participated in a demonstration organised by ROHR in Masvingo. The protest is a continuation of the protests during the meeting of SADC heads of state.
1st November – ROHR activist Osborne Kachuru was beaten to death at ZANU PF's offices in Fourth Street, Harare, after a peaceful demonstration during the SADC talks on Monday. Moses Mutasa and Memory Chashayele who were abducted on 27th October have been found. They are shaken and in deep pain caused by the extremely brutal assault they endured at the hands on their Zanu-PF abductors.
4th November – ROHR mobilised more than 200 people to participate in the protest march held in Gweru today. They were holding placards and distributing flyers to the public.
21st November - The 'Demand for Justic and democracy' demonstration in Bulawayo was subdued because of the heavy presence of police, army and CIOs but ROHR members managed to distribute flyers to people in the streets who approvingly shouted, 'victory is for the people'.
1st December - more than 350 Bindura ROHR members and residents took to the streets today in a protest organised as part of the ROHR campaign for democracy and justice
21st December – About 40 ROHR members in Bindura have fled their homes to mountains and surrounding areas following attacks and arrests by Zanu PF. Several ROHR members were beaten up and are being accused of having staged a demonstration against President Mugabe without police authority.
ROHR in the UK
Ephraim Tapa, President, and Paradzai Mapfumo, UK Co-ordinator, have worked hard to build UK support structures for ROHR in Zimbabwe. They have travelled the length and breadth of the UK and launched the following branches: Bradford – 17th August, Birmingham – 13th September, Ashford - 14th September, Liverpool – 21st September, Stoke-on-Trent – 27th September, Brighton – 4th October, South West London – 19th October, Wolverhampton – 25th October, Manchester – 1st November, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – 2nd November, Coventry – 8th November, West Yorkshire – 15th November, Glasgow – 22nd November, Bournemouth – 30th November, Hatfield – 6th December, Reading – 7th December, Leicester – 13th December.
In addition ROHR held a protest outside the Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham on 4th May and had an audience with Archbishop Nichols, who expressed his support. The new ROHR website was launched on 1st November – thanks to David McAllister for his hard work on this. ROHR Liverpool’s weekly protests started on 15th November.
May – Ephraim Tapa, ROHR President and Vigil founder member, visited Johannesburg at the invitation of South African activists who wanted to join up with the ROHR project. On 17th May he reported to the Vigil on his visit. He said he had made contact with many Zimbabwean exiles and told us of the difficulties of their lives there. People without papers were constantly stopped by the authorities and money demanded. In the case of women who had no money they were often raped. He said that for Zimbabwean women the formula was: no papers + no money = rape. Zimbabweans in South Africa were very keen to start a ROHR protest group.
10th December – ROHR Zimbabwe SA Chapter was joined by comrades from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to mark World Human Rights Day. They protested against the rising spate of abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests and abuse of civic leaders, members of the opposition and ordinary Zimbabweans. They also protested against the SADC resolution on both Zimbabwe and the DRC, arguing that the regional leaders had chosen to stand in solidarity with dictatorships against defenceless citizens. About 700 activists were at the Union Building gardens to hand over a petition to SADC chairman and SA President Kgalema Motlanthe.