The following statement was issued by the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) in support of six Zimbabwean activists and socialists facing trial for “inciting public violence” in relation to screening a video more than a year ago in support of the Egyptian pro-democracy uprising.
* * *
The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is alarmed to hear reports that the six Zimbabwean activists who dared to show and discuss a film of the Egyptian uprising last year in Harare and who are in court defending themselves, are in danger of receiving heavy prison sentences.
The Zimbabwe state is behaving in a hysterical and irrational manner.
The evidence put before the court by the state is flimsy, biased and shrouded in innuendo and paranoia. If the six are convicted, it will mean that the security apparatus in Zimbabwe will have unlimited powers to send perfectly innocent people to prison for watching a film, or worse, for even daring to discuss events unfolding in another country.
The so-called evidence emanating from the state verges on the paranoiac. As far as the state is concerned, this group of peaceful socialist activists were about to launch a revolution and take power for themselves.
In other words, if you watch a film about the events in Egypt, you must be preparing to organise a violent uprising in Harare. On this reasoning, thousands of those who tuned into Al Jazeera during the North African turmoil are guilty too.
Michael Reza, in his submission to the court on behalf of the state, said the six clearly conspired on February 19 last year to cause public violence and the uprising had gone beyond the planning stage.
“The uprising had gone beyond the planning stage. The date had been set (March 1, 2011), the place set, (Africa Unity Square, Harare) communication method agreed on (email, texting).
“All what remained was the arrival of the appointed date. The crime had been complete at that stage.
“If the accused persons are found guilty as charged (and the state firmly believes that it should be so) then they should be punished heavily.”
Reza said, “were it not for the police, who scuttled the plan, Harare would have burnt on March 1, 2011”.
Logic and reason are not being applied in court by the state. Instead, it is deploying the worst forms of guilt by association and conspiracy mongering to stifle any opposition to rule by Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
The state is desperate to close down any avenue for discussion in the build-up to the coming elections that might allow important questions to be raised about the illegal human rights abuses of ZANU-PF, the state of corruption and patronage at work in the country and the continuing poverty experienced by the masses. This is the real agenda. Speak out and you can expect to be punished and sent to prison.
SAMWU urges all of those who stand for democratic and human rights, and all of civil society across the region to be ready to defend the six socialists who are currently in court if the outrageous and unjust convictions materialise.
We must all be ready to send a message to the Zimbabwean government that intolerance of this type is not acceptable and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
We sincerely hope that the Movement for Democratic Change in the Zimbabwean government will publicly disassociate itself from this travesty of justice, and along with civil society demand that the charges be dropped and those who have been victimised and vilified be properly compensated and given an official apology.
Failure to do so will make everyone less secure in Zimbabwe.
The right to meet, discuss events in the world, share ideas and speak openly and freely is not a luxury reserved for a small political elite, but a fundamental human right that must be enjoyed by all.
Release the six accused now! Say no to intimidation and state repression! An injury to one is an injury to all!
[Readers are urged to phone, email or send protest messages demanding the release of the activists to the Zimbabwe embassy or consulate in their countries. Please send copies of protest messages sent to email@example.com (copy firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com ).]