Harare – Prominent female human rights activist, Linda Masarira, has been sentenced to 385 hours of community service on charges of obstructing traffic during a citizen protest held in July 2016. Last year (2016), Masarira is winner of the Outstanding Female Human Rights Defender of the Year 2016 accolade at the annual Community Human Rights Defenders Awards (CHRDA) organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) in November in Bulawayo.
Yesterday, March 7, 2017, at Mbare Magistrates court in Harare, Masarira was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, seven of which were suspended on condition that she does not commit the same offence for five years. The community service was an option she chose in place of 11 months of imprisonment.
On Friday, March 3, 2017, Masarira was convicted by the court, prompting an outcry from human rights defenders. Last year (2016), the activist stayed 82 days in remand prison at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, spending part of the incarceration in solitary confinement in a male section.
The charges emanated from a citizen protest under the name #shutdown that was held in July 2016. About 10 days ago, Masarira was hospitalised at a private hospital after being assaulted inside a lorry by riot police. She had visited Parirenyatwa Hospital, where medical doctors were on strike, to demand for an immediate resolution to the health crisis that was affecting patients’ right to get medical care.
Masarira has been a strong voice for democracy and human rights observance in Zimbabwe. ZimRights is deeply worried by the conviction and subsequent sentencing of the human rights activist and democracy campaigner for duly exercising her constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate and petition the authorities in search of good governance.