Sonke Gender Justice, MenEngage Africa and MenAngage Global Alliance are calling for the dropping of charges against and the release of Zimbabwean social justice and girls’ rights activist, Farirai Gumbonzvanda.
25-year-old Gumbonzvanda was arrested alongside others including George Makoni, Nyasha Frank Mphalo, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Stabile Dewa and Rita Nyampinga on 21 May upon arrival by security operatives at the Robert Mugabe International Airport.
They are accused of intent to subvert and overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Zimbabwe. They are also charged with acts of terrorism – a charge that, if convicted, carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
Gumbonzvanda was in Maldives from 15-19 May attending a training workshop that covered topics such as non-violent tools and fake news.
While in Maldives, the Herald newspaper published an article accusing Rozaria Memorial Trust as part of groups undergoing training for subversive purposes. The Trust issued a statement on the same day refuting the allegations and demanding a retraction and an apology.
Gumbonzvanda was arrested upon her return from Maldives and is remanded in custody at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
The organisations say that Gumbonzvanda’s presumption of innocent until proven guilty has been violated as she is detained at a maximum prison.
MenEgage and Sonke Gender Justice have labelled the arrests in a statement as “a lapse of judgement with no just cause having been established for their arbitrary incarcerations.”
The organisations say that no evidence has been submitted to support the allegations.
They further say that they are concerned about the culture of impunity displayed by the Zimbabwean authorities against innocent civilians.
“The principle of natural justice demand that before one’s liberties can be curtailed, the state liberties can be curtailed; the state must have prima facie evidence of criminal conduct. There is a responsibility on the part of the state to show just cause for why a citizen should be remanded in custody.”
The organisations say that they support freedom of association, expression and movement and uphold human rights under international Human Rights Law.
They further demanded that Zimbabwe align its constitution with the S58 of the Constitution.
“We demand that Zimbabwe reform and align their legislation with s58 of Zimbabwean Constitution by repealing the Draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and other laws that violate civil liberties.”