WITH Zimbabwe’s political and economic crises deepening, the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) have once again implored authorities to engage the MDC to end the country’s myriad challenges.
This comes as the international spotlight is once again on the Zanu-PF government, after claims by three opposition youth leaders last week that they were abducted and tortured by unknown men following a demonstration in Harare.
At the same time, local churches and rights groups have also called for a thorough and independent probe into the alleged abuses, which have further raised political temperatures in the country.
To underscore the extent of the country’s economic woes, the ill-fated Zimbabwe dollar – which was prematurely re-introduced by under-fire Finance minister Mthuli Ncube last year – plunged to a new low yesterday, trading at up to 70 against the American dollar on the parallel market.
In their joint statement yesterday, which was also supported by Scandinavian countries, the influential USA and EU called upon President Emmerson Mnangagwa to initiate dialogue with the MDC to end the country’s worsening political and economic crises.
The global power brokers also expressed concern over the continuing allegations of brutality against security agents.
“The Heads of Mission further urge all protagonists to resolve political conflicts through constructive dialogue, and remain clear that international re-engagement is contingent on genuine and sustained implementation of political and economic reforms,” the statement said.
This came as political temperatures continue to rise in the country, over claims that three MDC youth leaders – who led a flash demonstration in Harare last week – were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by suspected security agents.
At the same time, churches and rights groups have demanded a thorough probe into the abduction and torture allegations that have been made by MDC Harare West MP Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.
Similarly, the USA and the EU also called on the government to conduct thorough and credible investigations into the matter, as well as the abuse of two Bulawayo sisters who were savaged by police officers last month.
“The Heads of Mission expect from the government of Zimbabwe a swift, thorough and credible investigation into the abduction and torture of … Mamombe, along with … Chimbiri and … Marova and allegations of assault on Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu of Bulawayo.
“The perpetrators of heinous acts of this kind and other human rights violations need to be identified and prosecuted.
“The Zimbabwe Constitution prohibits enforced disappearances, torture, violence against women and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“The Heads of Mission exhort Zimbabwean authorities to respect these fundamental rights and fully adherence to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations,” the Western powers said in their statement.
Last Friday, the three MDC women told the media how they had allegedly ended up in the hands of suspected State security operatives, who are said to have assaulted them with guns and sticks during a “horrendous interrogation”.
“They (the alleged abductors) ordered us to sing a song, saying that we are going to stop leading demonstrations. Whenever we stopped they would beat us under the feet and on our legs.
“We were put in shallow holes in the middle of nowhere. They gave me the nickname Dolly Parton as they took turns sucking my breasts.
“They forced us to drink our urine and then stripped me,” Chimbiri said of her ordeal in between sobs.
“I thought they were going to rape me. They then shoved a gun into my private parts,” she added.
On the other hand, on April 16, the Mpofu siblings were savagely beaten by police for allegedly breaking lockdown rules.
The government has promised to launch a through probe into the alleged abductions, with Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe directing police commissioner general Godwin Matanga to institute a full-scale investigation.
All this happened as Mnangagwa and his government were already under growing pressure to introduce broad political and economic reforms, as part of efforts to do things differently from the previous regime of the late former president Robert Mugabe – whose disastrous 37 years in power left Zimbabwe in ruins.
It also comes as the government has also been accused of abducting its critics and torturing dozens of opposition officials to silence dissent in the country, sparked by a worsening economic situation.
Rights groups have claimed that more than 100 people have been abducted by suspected security agents since last year’s January riots, which were sparked by fuel price increases.
On his part, Mnangagwa has pleaded for more patience from Zimbabweans and the international community, as he battles to revive the country’s battered economy.
During his visit to the United Kingdom mid last year, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo reinforced this commitment – outlining what Harare had done thus far in terms of implementing much-needed reforms.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West have been frosty for nearly two decades since the country embarked on chaotic and widely-criticised land reforms which saw many commercial farmers losing their land at the height of Mugabe’s ruinous rule.