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Rule of law in Zimbabwe: December 2012 - January 2013
Rights NGO Forum
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
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
leaders made calls
for the protection of their legitimate work by the Joint Monitoring
and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), a body created under Zimbabwe's
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
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).
draft of Zimbabwe's new constitution released on 27 January
2013 can be accessed by visiting http://www.copac.org.zw/.
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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