On June 28, 2017, Fanuel Kaseke, a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student, was reportedly abducted and held for six days, apparently in connection with his peaceful student activism.
Kaseke is a political science major who co-founded and leads a student organization on campus, and is known for writing political articles in student publications. On June 26, 2017, Kaseke helped to organize a student protest against UZ’s decision to increase tuition for medical students. Violent clashes between protesters and police reportedly broke out during the demonstration, resulting in injuries to at least 80 students, and leading to three arrests (see report).
Following the June 26 demonstration, Mr. Kaseke reported receiving phone calls from anonymous people threatening him to stop writing political articles and organizing demonstrations, and to focus on school. Mr. Kaseke reported that he was walking home on June 28, when he was lured into a passing car by two men and a woman asking for directions. Once in the car, Mr. Kaseke asked where they were going, and one of the passengers struck him on the head, knocking him unconscious. He later awoke in a jail cell in what appeared to be a remote area, without his cell phones. Mr. Kaseke was detained there for six days, during which he was beaten, and interrogated about his role in organizing the June 26 protest. On July 4, his captors apparently sedated him, and left him, unconscious, on a street in Mbare.
Mr. Kaseke was briefly hospitalized for his injuries and is currently being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Men identifying themselves as police have reportedly frequented Mr. Kaseke’s mother’s house and asked about his whereabouts since he was released by his captors.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction of a student, apparently in response to the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim and his family, abductions and violent attacks on students chill academic freedom and undermine university autonomy. State authorities have a responsibility to ensure the safety of student and to investigate such incidents.