When last Zimbabwe was in the news, people were dying of cholera, there was a huge inflation rate that made the local dollar worthless, and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, along with an MDC offshoot, had agreed to make a unity government with the President Mugabe.

But although the verbal agreement was that Tsvangirai’s party was to get real power, including the ability to run the army and police, after signing the paper, Mugabe claimed he had not agreed to this.

But with South Africa pressuring both sides, the Unity government settled into action.

The currency was replaced with foreign currency: the US Dollar, the Euro and the South African Rand can now be legally sent to family from the Zimbabwean diaspora to buy food and other goods, without the loss of it’s value by inflation or the danger of having to go through the black market to exchange to the local currency.

And another hopeful sign: The courts released Human Rights Activist Jestina Mukoko, declaring her innocent. (Her only crime had been to document human rights violations and violence during two previous elections: The violence was one reason that Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew his name from the run off election).

Even the Cholera epidemic calmed down.

With the Unity government, although the US and some of Europe has refrained from open aid to the government, nevertheless aid is being funneled via NGO’s and some governments such as China are sponsoring business deals, in the hopes that things will settle down and their investment won’t be stolen.

But in recent days, violence has flared up again. Roy Bennett, a white Zimbabwean and cabinet member in the Tsvangirai government, has been arrested for “treason”, and as a result, Prime Minister Tsvangirai is withdrawing from the so called “unity government”, and appealing to South Africa and other African leaders to stop the violence.

Bennett’s arrest was the last straw, because it came after numerous reports of opposition MDC party activists being attacked, beaten up, or arrested on trumped up charges.

From the NYTimes:

Mr. Tsvangirai laid out a broad array of grievances. He accused Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, of selectively using the law to punish his legislators, putting 16,000 members of its youth militia on the government payroll and remilitarizing the countryside on bases used in last year’s discredited election to organize a campaign of terror against his supporters.

One MDC leader was arrested for playing an anti Mugabe song on his car radio. Eight other members of the MDC have been arrested for various charges since the Unity government formed last February. The latest harassment was a raid on the house of Secretary General Tendai Biti, where his house was ransacked, papers were stolen, and his employees were assaulted.

Those who work in NGO’s are not immune. Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama has been arrested last month on charges of “contempt of court”.

But the latest news is that Victoria Falls police arrested NANGO board chairperson Dadirai Chikwengo and Chief Executive Officer Cephas Zinhumwe for holding an “illegal meeting”.
The meeting was a regularly scheduled annual meeting with over 100 attendees, where various humanitarian problems, HIV, and human rights issues, were discussed.

NANGO stands for “National Association of Non Government Organizations”, and is not political, having been around since  1962 and helps coordinate hundreds of NGO’s working to improve Zimbabwe.

Their “crime”? Issuing a statement about the continuing violence in Zimbabwe. (statement HERE).

So the human rights situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living  in the rural Philippines. She writes about Human rights in Zimbabwe at Makaipa Blog.

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