The Ecumenical Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), has expressed its “deep concern” over the crisis in Zimbabwe in which soldiers embarked on random arrests and detention of citizens in a government crackdown on protesters and opposition who came out to protest continuing economic meltdown and rise in fuel prices.
A statement issued by the CCZ, Caritas Zambia, Civil Society Constitutional Agenda, Non- Governmental Gender Organizations Coordinating Council, Alliance for Community Action and Action Aid, said “as civil society activists, we cannot sit idle while our neighbours are being beaten, arrested, detained and killed.”
One of the victims, in a text message to Global Christian News, said “Prisoners not allowed food when their church members took food to them today. Pastor E in maximum security prison. No one will get bail magistrates have been told to convict everyone.”
The Zambian Non-Governmental Organizations’ joint statement said. “As civil rights groups, we are particularly concerned with the reported beatings, arrest and killing of unarmed citizens who were peacefully demonstrating against the dire economic situation in Zimbabwe. We also take note that it had to take a Court action to overturn the shutdown of the internet which had [been done] in an effort to silence the masses.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa had cut short his trip to Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders were meeting in an economic forum and said “heads would roll” if security forces were found to have tortured and used brutal force on protesters.
Reports say over 600 people have been arrested and detained in various prisons in appalling conditions. A relation who visited the prison in Goromonzi said “The two teachers are in prison as opposed to police custody. Less secure for them and no food or toiletries allowed but last two nights miracles of them being protected by police from the military breaking in to get them- pray they stay safe in prison which is not as protected.”
The Zambian Council of Churches, in the joint statement, further stressed that “It is disheartening to note that the terrible situation in Zimbabwe has not garnered the desired response both regionally and internationally. As civil society activists, we cannot sit idle while our neighbours are being beaten, arrested, detained and killed. We therefore urge the Zimbabwean government through President Emmerson Mnangagwa to immediately halt the human rights violations against its citizens and to respect the rule of law.
The indiscriminate arrest of perceived enemies of the state included pastors and church leaders. An eye witness account narrated the story of such arrest. “When Pastor E was arrested, his friend (names withheld) insisted on riding with him in the police car from his house to the police station, because he was concerned what the police may do to E. There wasn’t really any space, but Doug squeezed in anyway. Pastor E always carried his Bible with him, and while they were all shoulder to shoulder with the heavily armed police officers, (the friend) opened the Bible and read aloud from Psalm 10 (asking for justice for the oppressed.)”
The Church in Zambia, called on “President Edgar Lungu, as Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics Defense and Security, and any influential members of the international community, including the African Union, to take a keen interest in the happenings in Zimbabwe before more innocent lives are lost. Zimbabwe deserves better from its leaders and the international community,” the joint statement said.