Obert Masaraure is the National President of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), a registered Trade Union which seeks to advance the interests of teachers in rural schools.
Mr. Masaraure first came under public scrutiny in 2019 when he led an ARTUZ protest against the Zimbabwean government’s failure to pay and provide basic services to teachers. This led to his first arrest; having been charged with ‘subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence.’ In January 2022, another protest took place, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with regards to fair wages for teachers. Soon after this protest, Mr. Masaraure left for Dublin, Ireland where he received a FrontLine Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk for Africa. On his return to Zimbabwe, he was again arrested, this time for “participating in a gathering with intention to promote violence, bigotry and breaches of peace.”
This report focuses, however, on two additional cases Mr. Masaraure currently faces. The first relates to the alleged murder of a fellow ARTUZ member, Roy Issa, who died in 2016. The second relates to the alleged offence of public incitement to violence or defeating or obstructing the course of justice linked to a statement (replicated in full on page 9 of this report) put out by Mr. Masaraure in support of an ARTUZ colleague also charged in the murder case.
This report examines these two cases, but also examines the context in which they occurred. It highlights significant concerns that these cases are in line with a consistent pattern of arrests, charges, and criminal proceedings that amount to attacks on labor rights and the criminalisation of trade union activism and trade union leaders in Zimbabwe.