Updated - CAHR expresses concern for arrest and subsequent court summons of Zimbabwean HRD Prosper Tiringindi
The Centre for Applied Human Rights is concerned to hear that Zimbabwean human rights defender and CAHR visiting fellow in 2018/9, Prosper Tiringindi, was arrested on 25 March 2021 and again on 24 April 2021 in Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
On 18 May 2021, residents in Masvingo woke up to graffiti painted on walls across the city. The graffiti demanded Masvingo City Council to reverse the more than 500% increases in water rates, which were introduced in early March 2021.
In the morning of 24 March 2021, police from the Law and Order Section raided civic activist Prosper Tiringindi's house in Rujeko, Masvingo, and searched for spray guns and other equipment that they suspected were used to spray graffiti on walls, houses and shops around the city. Tiringindi was arrested and police drove him together with his lawyer Martin Mureri to Law and order Masvingo Central. He is accused of participating in the spraying of graffiti, such as ‘Rates must fall’ and ‘we need water’, on buildings in the Central Business District of Masvingo. Tiringindi was released on 26 March 2021 and he will appear in court by the way of summons. He is denying the charges.
Prosper Tiringindi is the coordinator of Masvingo Residents Trust (MRT), a human rights organisation which campaigns for transparency and public accountability in the delivery of social services in the Masvingo province of south-eastern Zimbabwe. MRT advocates for the improvement of the socio-economic rights of communities by supporting projects to reduce poverty and support sustainable development, and organising peaceful demonstrations demanding good governance from the Masvingo authorities. Tiringindi has previously been subject to judicial harassment for his human rights work in 2015 and 2016.
The Centre for Applied Human Rights is concerned that Masvingo authorities may be using false charges to deter Prosper Tiringindi from conducting his human rights activism that focuses on granting Masvingo residents socio-economic rights and holding the local authorities accountable.
Update 13 April 2021:
On 6 April 2021, four armed state police raided Prosper Tiringindi’s house again, but without giving a clear reason why they were looking for him. On 9 April 2021, Tiringindi was accompanied by the Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights Advocate Martin Mureri to Law and Order Masvingo, with the intention of making a follow-up on their case that had been opened on 24 March 2021, since there had been no communication from the day of the arrest. The Zimbabwe Republic Police informed them at the time that the case will proceed to the Magistrate Court anytime.
Update 28 April 2021:
Following a power cut at Bushmead waterworks, Masvingo residents have been facing serious water challenges for several weeks, with some locations having faced lack of access to tapped water for up to five months. Child-headed families, elderly people, people with disabilities and those suffering from chronic illness have been particularly affected. Residents spend prolonged hours at water sources that cannot provide sufficient water for all families in the city, and on occasion residents access water from city bowsers at night, thus violating Covid-19 lockdown measures. The water crisis has caused damage to the community’s social and economic development, particularly affecting women and girls, who have also suffered from verbal and physical abuse at water collection points.
On 23 April, Masvingo Residents Forum (MRF) members gathered peacefully with buckets outside Masvingo Council Offices, to protest against the water shortage the city had been suffering from since the previous week. Nine MRF members, including its secretary general Prosper Tiringindi, R Mavhenge, A Mufamba, Mataga Clara, Christine Mukuma, Viola Masuma, Kudzai Chamunorwa, Matter Zigwata and Leeroy Taylor, were arrested for the peaceful protest, and charged with section 37 of criminal law codification participating in unlawful gathering with intent to promote public violence. After having spent the night in police cells, the nine MRF members appeared in Masvingo Magistrates Court on 24 April, and granted bail for $5,000 each. Prosper Tiringindi and the eight other MRF members were back in court on 28 April, when the matter was postponed to 26 May for trial.
Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe grants every person the right to demonstrate and present petitions peacefully. Section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe grants the right to safe, clean and potable water. The Centre for Applied Human Rights expresses its concern over the nine MRF members’ unlawful arrest in the wake of exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully for safe, clean and potable water. The Centre for Applied Human Rights urges the authorities in Masvingo to drop the charges against Prosper Tiringindi and his eight colleagues.