Zimbabwe security forces 'used live ammunition to disperse protesters'

16 January 2019 - 10:28 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Protesters erected a burning barricade during protests on a road leading to Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 15 2019.
Protesters erected a burning barricade during protests on a road leading to Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 15 2019.
Image: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe security forces have been accused of killing at least five people and wounding 25 others during a crackdown on nationwide protests over a massive petrol price increase.

“Zimbabwe authorities have a duty to maintain security during protests, but they need to do that without using excessive force,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Those responsible for using unlawful lethal force should be promptly investigated and held accountable.”

He said during the protests, locals burned a police station, barricaded roads with large rocks, and looted shops in Harare, Kadoma, and Bulawayo.

“Government security forces responded with live ammunition, rubber bullets, and teargas, which they fired at the protesters and into people’s homes. Zimbabwe’s State Security Minister announced on January 14 that more than 200 people had been arrested,” Mavhinga said.

“In videos and images circulated on social media, a man in civilian clothes but armed with an AK-47 military assault rifle shot at protesters in Harare on January 14.

“Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry tweeted early on January 15 that the police sought public assistance to identify the man with the assault weapon shown in the video. Witnesses and local activists reported that uniformed members of the security forces fired on protesters in Epworth, Chitungwiza, and Kadoma.”

According to Mavhinga, members of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights told Human Rights Watch by telephone that they had provided emergency medical services to 25 people with gunshot injuries on Monday.

“They also said that two people in Chitungwiza and three in Kadoma had died from gunshot wounds. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that all security forces shall as far as possible use nonviolent means before resorting to force.

“Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, the authorities must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Law enforcement officials should not use firearms against people except in self-defence or to protect others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

“The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights reported that uniformed members of the police and army carried out apparently indiscriminate door-to-door raids in some Harare suburbs on [Monday], forcibly entering homes by breaking doors and windows. The authorities then proceeded to assault some occupants and, in some instances, forced residents out of their homes,” said Mavhinga.

On Tuesday, Zimbabweans experienced a social media shutdown and were cut off from the internet.

According to Mavhinga, the government denied having issued a directive to internet service providers to shut down the internet.


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