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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Institutional reforms - Human Rights Bulletin Number 49
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    April 01, 2010

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    Zimbabwe has a history of political violence and impunity (freedom from punishment) for which the state has been responsible. This culture of violence can be traced back to the Gukurahundi era during which numerous lives were lost in the violence that affected the Midlands and

    Matebeleland provinces. Since then violence, intimidation and destruction of property have characterized Zimbabwe's politics. Human rights abuses have been encouraged and conducted mainly by state agents that include the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). State institutions have primarily been directly and indirectly responsible for the murders, disappearances, torture, beatings, selective distribution of food aid and other humiliating and shameful treatment of citizens. According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, employees of the state are supposed to be unbiased, independent and apolitical (i.e., they should not be political party activists) but almost all national institutions have become politicized. The duty of any security institution is to protect its citizens and ensure peace and national security.

    In Zimbabwe, instead, the security sector is now perceived as perpetrators of violence. Before the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU), the then government used the state system to advance its political agenda. During the 2008 elections for example, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) was responsible for policy making in most state functions. JOC is made up of the heads of the intelligence organization, the military and the police. Former members of the military currently head most government departments and parastatals. Alexander and Tendi note that since 2000,

    "Zimbabwe's state has been described as increasingly 'militarized' with military men being appointed in key positions throughout the state, and an expanding range of decisions and actions being taken by the military, from political strategy to the formulation and implementation of agrarian and economic
    2 policy"

    The members of the security forces have committed and continue to commit human rights violations. The security sector was used by the then ruling party to instill fear in the electorate through widespread acts of politically motivated violence that were conducted with impunity. The failure to hold the members of the security sector responsible for their actions has damaged public trust in state institutions.

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