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To: Her Excellency Ms Jacqueline Zwambila, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Australia and New Zealand
4 March, 2011
Socialist Worker-New Zealand today adds its voice to the growing international campaign for the release of Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 other civil society activists arrested in Zimbabwe.
The 45 students, trade unionists and workers were detained along with Gwisai at a meeting in Harare on February 19 while watching videos of recent political developments in Egypt and Tunisia.
Gwisai is the director of the Labor Law Centre in Zimbabwe and a former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of parliament.
All have been charged with treason, which carries a possible death penalty or a sentence of life imprisonment.
Gwisai has given testimony in court of torture that he and five other detainees suffered in a bid to extract confessions. All have been denied medical attention while in custody, including those suffering from HIV. The 46 were not given any reason for their arrest at the time they were taken into custody, rendering their arrest unlawful. Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama states that police denied him access to the detainees prior to their first court appearance.
Socialist Worker, along with other supporters of the Workers Charter, was proud to host a meeting by Gwisai at Auckland's Trades Hall in 2007. The visit strengthened ties between civil society groups in New Zealand and Zimbabwe forged during the long struggle against apartheid in Southern Africa.
We echo the condemnation by Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International Deputy Director for Africa, of the torture and ill-treatment inflicted by the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station.
Gwisai, a lecturer in law at the University of Zimbabwe, has told the court that meeting was to discuss constitutionalism, democracy and good governance. We urge respect for this expression academic freedom in Zimbabwe.
We are concerned at reports that the presiding magistrate in the case, Munamato Mutevedzi, was summoned on February 28 to meet with Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a former Attorney General in Robert Mugabe's government. Any political interference in the case will further undermine the tarnished international reputation of Zimbabwe's judicial system.
We support the statement by Bongani Masuku, International Relations Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, that the allegations against the detainees are baseless.
We repeat the call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that all those being held in custody illegally should be released without delay.
We further demand that the rights contained in Articles XII and XIX of the Global Political Agreement, signed by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe on 15 September 2008, must be upheld now and in the future, namely:
* Freedoms of assembly and association.
* Freedom of expression.
The Zimbabwean government, its ministers and agents should be aware that the world is watching.
Central committee, Socialist Worker-New Zealand