International Student Bodies Speak Out On Zimbabwe
International students’ bodies representing millions of students worldwide have condemned the ongoing repression of government critics in Zimbabwe saying it is unjustifiable for a population to face the double jeopardy of the ravages of coronavirus and a repressive regime.
The four regional and international students’ bodies sent a message of solidarity under the banner of All Africa Students Union (AASU), Commonwealth Students Association (CSA), European Students Unions (ESU) and the Organizing Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU).
They expressed grave concern over the continued violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of government critics through arbitrary incarcerations, extrajudicial state-sanctioned torture, which is shrinking civilian space and fomenting a culture of censorship.
The solidarity message also indicates a growing inclination of international and regional recognition towards an organic grassroots online movement #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, which is now trending worldwide.
“As international and regional student unions representing millions of students and young people across the world, we stand in unequivocal solidarity with our Zimbabwean peers exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest the deteriorating economic situation and corruption in Zimbabwe.
“COVID-19 and the pandemic’s devastating socio-economic impact has caused an unprecedented global crisis in the education, livelihoods and fundamental freedoms of so many. To be simultaneously facing repression and violence from the state for raising legitimate grievances is unjustifiable.
“We are gravely concerned with the rising reports of arbitrary arrests and alleged state-sanctioned beatings of our fellow students, journalists and authors, all contributing to a growing culture of silence and ever-shrinking civil space,” read part of the solidarity message.
The students made a call for the regional and broader global community to ratchet up ‘pressure on the Zimbabwean government to make reforms that will usher in a democratic system’, tolerant of public criticism.
The Zimbabwean authorities, said the students, must also respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of people as well as charting an inclusive path to address the economic malaise which has gripped the country for the past decades.
Ironically government clampdown on dissenting voices is despite assurances by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his assumption of the helm that the ‘Voice of people is the voice of God’, which he seemingly is deafened from.
Government has clamped down hard on any protests since the new dispensation took over in a soft coup in 2017, with protesters of alleged election fraud shot and hundreds of others arrested- a commission appointed by government implicated state security, but no arrests have been made.
“Freedom of speech, of assembly and critique are cornerstones of democracy and must be protected…
“We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the human, civic and economic rights of its citizens. We also urge the government to have an inclusive approach and engage the citizens when making decisions that have an impact on their daily lives.
“We call on the regional institutions and the broader global community to put pressure the Zimbabwean government to make reforms that will usher in a democratic system,” urged the student bodies.
These concerns have also been ignited by a recent spate of arrests and abduction of government critics including the incarcerated duo of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and 31 July movement leader Jacob Ngarivhume.
The pressure is mounting on the new dispensation to address economic free fall and the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, recently appointing a Special Envoy on a fact-finding mission.