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Zimbabwe human rights report
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum & Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)
December 10, 2010

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This report is a collaborative effort between the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) to have a competent, national and collective human rights appraisal of Zimbabwe that can be an addition and alternative to external Zimbabwe human rights assessments.

The idea of producing a locally generated human rights situation assessment and consolidated report was born out of a realization that the work of national and grassroots organizations that compile first-hand information is often subordinated to international assessments, which depend on secondary data sources, usually official, that can be subject to manipulation and unavailability.

This will be the first Zimbabwe Human Rights Report compiled by and through the efforts of local human rights organizations. The report covers the human rights situation in Zimbabwe in 2009. Information contained herein was collected from the findings of local human rights organizations and desktop reviews of source documents. Data collection and validation was done with the participation of twenty-six collaborating human rights organizations. Efforts were made to validate and authenticate the independent findings of these organizations, and to compile valid cumulative totals of statistics provided and narrative assessments.

The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • The year 2009 saw a marked improvement in, but not the cessation of, human rights violations compared to 2008 as a result of the formation of the inclusive government (also called a Government of National Unity, GNU).
  • A culture of impunity persisted, and perpetrators of rights violations were not made to account for their transgressions.
  • The monitoring of rights violations was enabled by the opening up of political space.
  • Not all human rights NGOs in Zimbabwe contributed to the production of this report. It is hoped that in future more organizations will make contributions deriving from their organizational mandates for the production of regular annual reports.


The year 2009 was an important milestone in the historical development of Zimbabwe. It saw for the first time in the country's history ZANU (PF)'s monopoly on power being broken with the formation of an inclusive government and the swearing in of 'opposition' ministers in February 2009. This development fundamentally altered the political landscape in Zimbabwe with the infusion of the 'democrats' into government; alternatively, and perhaps more significantly, it also extinguished an opposition's discerning voice, as they all began to speak as one government.

These changes, as will be more evident in this report, managed to arrest the rapid decline of the economic socio-political environment that had characterized the country in the last decade. This union, however, was an imperfect one, with numerous 'outstanding issues' hindering the full implementation of the Interparty Political Agreement (more commonly known as the Global Political Agreement, GPA) that had created the inclusive government. The political bickering eventually led to the temporary withdrawal of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) from the government on 16 October 2009, only to re-engage later following intervention by SADC in November.

The political bickering and gesturing by the political parties only marginally affected Zimbabwe's economic turnaround that had been encouraged by the GPA and the decision to adopt a multicurrency regime. Commerce and industry seemed to be on the mend, and basic commodities started to re-appear in most retail outlets. This revival cascaded to the provision of social amenities that had ceased at the height of the crisis: schools and hospitals began to reopen across the country, though these were available only to those that could afford the service fees.

As these developments took place in a specific political context, and in order to fully comprehend the content of this, the inaugural report, it is essential to look at the crisis in retrospect and analyse 2009 with that history in mind.

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