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Legal Monitor Issue 104
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

August 02, 2011

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Tension grips nation

Tension has gripped Zimbabwe, with recorded human rights violations inching closer to 2008 levels when the country plunged into unprecedented depths of instability, according to figures released by a leading peace group.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), which has monitors on the ground countrywide, has just released a report showing that human rights violations increased between June last year and June this year.

According to the ZPP report documenting the trend of human rights violations, Zimbabwe is on the edge because political parties have intensified campaigns for a general election whose date is yet to be announced. Some of the parties, such as ZANU PF, have upped the use of violence and intimidation, according to ZPP.

Election campaigning is in "full gear" resulting in people's rights being violated on a larger scale than last year, according to the ZPP report.

Politically motivated human rights violation cases recorded this past June were 1 014, up from 994 witnessed during the month of May, according to ZPP.

The year-on-year comparison makes much more sad reading.

"Over the past four years, the highest number of violations during the month of June was witnessed in 2008 in the lead up to the inconclusive Presidential election runoff when 3 758 cases were recorded. The violations eased significantly in 2009 with 1 558 cases being recorded following the consummation of the inclusive government in February that year while in 2010 there were 913 cases," reads the ZPP report.

It notes that the decline in abuses in June last year largely because coalition government partners were still trying their best to hold the shaky administration together-has failed to hold as the political temperature heats up.

The situation has since changed as political rivals put their gloves off in preparation for a watershed election, but at the expense of the general public.

Whereas 913 cases were recorded in June last year, that figure has since spiked to 1 014 recorded cases this past June, according to the ZPP report.

"The political situation has remained very tense across the country with political parties . . . preparing for the holding of elections as well as the constitutional referendum," noted ZPP.

ZPP says cases of politically motivated violence remain high and the atmosphere has remained volatile in Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces.

"ZANU PF supporters have been accused of leading political violence in the many incidents that were recorded during the month. Political violence cases were recorded to be continuing in Manicaland province despite interventions by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) in rural Chimanimani and Headlands," reads the ZPP report. JOMIC is a cross-party organ set up to monitor the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the founding accord to President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's fragile coalition government. JOMIC is largely viewed as ineffective and a waste of resources for its lack of teeth.

The two leaders-bitter enemies since Prime Minister Tsvangirai formed the Movement for Democratic Change party in 1999-are trapped in a coalition government forced by an African Union (AU) resolution passed in June 2008.

The AU resolution, taken in Egypt's Sharm el- Sheikh barely a week after President Mugabe declared himself winner of a disputed solo presidential election runoff, mandated regional leaders under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to supervise the negotiation of a coalition government and ensure credible fresh elections.

Democratic reforms agreed to in the GPA aren't coming quickly enough, ZPP says. Instead, the situation is worsening.

Figures from ZPP research show that recorded human rights violations this past June are already reaching almost half the cases recorded during the tumultuous 2008 period.

State security agents are back in action against civilians, says ZPP in its report.

Rights groups say the brutal 2008 campaign by the military was on behalf of President Mugabe, who was on a desperate comeback bid. This is after President Mugabe lost-for the first time since he took power at independence in 1980-an election in March 2008 to once trade unionist ally Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

The 1 014 cases of human rights violations recorded by ZPP this past June are a shy 2 744 from the cases recorded during the bloody 2008 period.

"State security agents and in particular members of the police force and soldiers were accused of partisan application of the law during the course of their work. This was evidenced in the manner in which police officers handled the murder case of police Inspector Petros Mutedza in Harare," read the ZPP report.

The report is referring to the rounding up of two dozen Glen View residents, mostly MDC activists, following the stoning to death of Inspector Mutedza in a neighbourhood beer hall brawl.

Freeing one of the residents, Cynthia Manjoro on $500 bail on bail on Thursday, High Court Judge Justice Samuel Kudya described the State case against her as weak. Matters of the belly have also come under attack, showing how human rights violations are affecting even the most basic survival of communities that are viewed as politically incorrect.

"Politicisation of food and other forms of aid was also recorded during the month under review with high indications that the folly is going to increase in the next months as more and more Zimbabweans will rely on food aid in the coming months due to poor harvests in some parts of the country. Humanitarian organisations are now carrying out surveys and registering possible beneficiaries," read the ZPP report.

UN agencies and government figures indicate that over 1, 7 million Zimbabweans, close to a tenth of the population, will require food aid this year. This is after a promising 2010-2011 main summer agricultural season turned disastrous because of a mid-season drought and poor capacity by newly resettled farmers.

The ZPP report cites ZANU PF as the main perpetrator of political violence against rival parties. But infighting for positions within the former ruling party has also come at a cost to ordinary people.

"The infighting within ZANU PF has been ongoing as new candidates are facing stiff resistance from the party's heavy weights in the fight to represent the party during the next general elections," reads the ZPP report.

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