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Rule of law in Zimbabwe: December 2012 - January 2013
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
February 01, 2013


The end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 resented a mixed picture in relation to the observance of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. On a positive note, the final draft of Zimbabwe's new constitution was accepted by the two main political parties, the government announced a temporary halt to the compulsory acquisition of agricultural land covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements between Zimbabwe and other countries [BIPPAs] and a High Court Judge granted bail to a leading human rights activist Mr Okay Machisa. However, on a negative note, the assault on ZimRights in December 2012 and January 2013 points to real threats to the operation of NGO's, their shrinking space and an attack on civil liberties. Further the rising tension across the country as evidenced by assaults, subtle intimidation and partisan nature of some in public service paints a worrying picture which is creating an uneven operating landscape before the proposed elections.

Judicial independence

Veritas reports on-going case involving the Anglican Church. It reports on the judgment by a High Court Judge Justice Chiweshe which upheld the earlier Supreme Court decision, which led to the eviction of the disgraced and pro-ZANU PF Bishop Dr Kunonga from the Anglican Cathedral.

Human rights environment

Heal Zimbabwe Weekly bulletin, describes the political environment as tense in most parts of Zimbabwe. This follows a rise in the politicisation of allocation of teaching posts and food. One example involved the need for all aspiring teachers to demonstrate their allegiance to ZANU PF and assaults perpetrated to those perceived to be aligned to the opposition. In Mashonaland Central, ZANU PF supporters were reported to be harassing and intimidating all those seen wearing opposition or civil society organisations t-shirts. In addition, Chief Negomo was reportedly accused of harassing non ZANU PF supporters at his traditional court located at Gweshe Business Centre. In Mashonaland East- Mudzi, army officers were accused of harassing non-ZANU supporters whilst gloating that the national census was meant to give them an idea of non ZANU PF supporters. In Masvingo-Zaka West, there were cases of intimidation and assault of MDC supporters. Although Jomic reportedly intervened, the outcome of its intervention is not yet known. For more detail on these and other cases, please contact

International obligations

On New Year's Eve Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Herbert Murerwa announced that "for now" the Government would halt compulsory acquisition of agricultural land covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements between Zimbabwe and other countries [BIPPAs]. The decision recognises the potential practical implications, the costs, for Zimbabwe of failure by the Government to abide by binding international agreements (Veritas Bill Watch 30/01/2013).

Human Rights Defenders

Civil society leaders made calls for the protection of their legitimate work by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), a body created under Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement (GPA) and tasked with monitoring the full implementation of the interparty Agreement. The calls come in the wake of the continuing state-led crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Similar calls were echoed by Zimbabwe civil society statement to the African Union leaders in Addis Abba during the AU Summit in January 2013, calling for 'an immediate disbandment of all violence related militia groups such as the Chipangano (Mbare) and Al Shabab (Kwekwe) and an immediate cessation of raids and harassment of civil society organisations and other pro-democracy movements.' The calls come in the wake of the arrest of the ZimRights Director Mr Okay Machisa.

After his release from detention, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association Director Mr Okay Machisa condemns political statements that were uttered during his bail application in the magistrate court thus leading to denial of bail. This, according to analysts shows the partisan nature of the Zimbabwean judiciary particularly at lower levels. On a courageous note, Mr Machisa re-affirms his commitment to continue serving Zimbabwe's down-trodden and urges the world to see 'that the onslaught on Human rights Defenders and those in the pro-democracy movement has increased' (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Report, 30.01.2013).


The final draft of Zimbabwe's new constitution released on 27 January 2013 can be accessed by visiting According to Veritas (Constitution Watch, 27.01.2013), this Draft approved by the GPA Party Principals and COPAC, will be presented to Parliament for endorsement after Parliament re-opens on the 5th February. After that it can go to the Referendum. This will probably to be held towards the end of March. COPAC's duty now is to make the draft familiar to the public before the Referendum so that there can be an informed vote, although the three GPA parties have said they have instructed their members to vote Yes.


As shown above, the period under review presents a mixed picture. Whilst the upper courts (high and supreme courts improved in asserting their independence, law enforcement at low levels, for example community and in lower courts continue to be selective and partisan. It is also clear that the government's temporary halt of evictions was not prompted by the desire to respect the rule of law but to avoid punitive measures. There is still a great need for the protection of human rights at all levels in Zimbabwe. Priority should be given to the tackling of low levels of violence and intimidation which, if left unchecked, will hinder people from exercising their right to vote. There is an increasing need for support to civil society grassroots activities to ensure that citizens are empowered to demand and exercise their rights in a responsible manner. If left unchecked, low levels harassment, intimidation and denial of basic rights such as association, expression, conscience and assembly will rise dramatically towards the election thus leading to the denial of the right to exercising voting rights.

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