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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Human rights update & analysis
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    February 06, 2013


    This issue, which draws data from our members and partners working on the ground, provides an update on the difficult operating environment for civil society organisations and human rights defenders as the country gears towards the constitutional referendum and elections. It also provides an update on diverse views on the elections, role of the military as well as the constitution making process. The update also draws attention to the strides by the judiciary towards independence although challenges still remain. Finally right at the end it also provides our own brief analysis. For more information on the topics covered, please do not hesitate to contact us or contact the cited organisations directly.

    Operating space for NGOs and human rights defenders

    • Two ZimRights officials, Education Programs Officer Leo Chamahwinya and Highfields Local Chapter chairperson Dorcas Shereni, were further remanded in custody to February 18 at the Rotten Row Magistrates court in Harare on Monday, February 4, 2013. The two human rights defenders were arrested two months ago. The bail hearing could not go ahead as Prosecutor failed to turn up at the court (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, 05.02.2013)
    • Police in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province, have arrested two National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) members and charged them with contravening Section 40 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) for allegedly possessing voter registration receipts. The NYDT members Brilliant Goboza (22) and Ray Ncube (19) were arrested on Monday 4 February 2013 in Lupane and charged with "possession of articles for criminal use" after they were allegedly found with a number of receipts issued at the Registrar General's Office when one registers as a voter. The detainees' lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were denied access to them on 4 February 2013. These arrests come in the wake of the arrest and detention of ZimRights Director on almost similar charges in January (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, 06.02.2013).
    • In a separate incident, on 6 February 2013 police have summoned Dumisani Nkomo, the Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust to Plumtree Police Station to answer to charges of inciting hatred at a meeting allegedly held last week in Plumtree. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member Godfrey Nyoni is attending with him at the police station today (06 February 2013).
    • In yet another related incident, on 6 February 2013 police raided the National Youth Development Trust Offices at LAPF House in Bulawayo. ZLHR Lawyers have been deployed to the scene.

    Right to freedom of association

    • The Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment gazetted regulations dated 18th January, to be effective immediately, in terms of section 26 of the Zimbabwe Youth Council Act. Among other requirements, the regulations state that that no youth association may operate without being registered in terms of the procedure detailed in the regulations; that registered associations must submit annual reports and accounts, and annual work plans and budgets to the Council; that every registered association must pay an annual levy to the Council by the 15th February each year; that donations to registered associations must be reported and that unregistered associations may not accept any donations at all (Veritas Bill Watch 05/02/2013)
    • The legality of these regulations have been called into question by Veritas, for example, the requirement that all youth associations must register [section 5], when the Act requires only the registration of national youth associations, provision for a Youth Council CEO [section 4] when the Act already provides for a Director, the fee for registration [section 5], although the Act does not empower the charging of a fee [the legal rule is that regulations may only prescribe fees if the enabling Act says so expressly or by necessary implication, which is not the case here] and restrictions on donations to youth associations [section 9] on which the Act is silent. As a matter of first impression, the regulations seem to go much further than the Act permits and, if that is so, are liable to attract the attention of the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC], which will also be considering whether the regulations are consistent with section 21 of the Constitution protecting freedom of association, and to be struck down by the High Court as ultra vires.

    Elections & the role of the military

    • On 1 February 2013, Zimbabwe Civil Society held a meeting in Bulawayo, which discussed, among other topics, the outcome of the Zimbabwean transition and the role of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) in ensuring fulfilment of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The meeting was part of civil society efforts to leverage the efforts of pro-democracy forces ahead of the election expected in 2013. During the meeting, concerns were raised on the delays on the announcement of election dates which has a bearing on the arrival of observer teams in Zimbabwe before the election. It was argued that the delay would eventually lead to late observation of the forthcoming elections (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, 05.02.2013)
    • The meeting also discussed the role of the military during which diverse views were aired. While International Crisis Group felt that the military had a role to play in ushering a new Zimbabwe, SAPES Trust felt that the role of the military has been overplayed since the military has always been subservient to the civilians since Rhodesian days and will not upset the constitutional order should a non-ZANU PF win the election. This view was also partly supported by Crisis group which stated that the military has remained subservient to civilians and said the Zanu PF party still controls the gun in Zimbabwe.
    • On security sector reform, it was noted that the Zimbabwean military top hierarchy had hijacked efforts by SADC to achieve security reform in Zimbabwe through a process of peer talk with other military bosses in the region.


    • On 31 January 2013, civil society coalition also held another meeting in Mutare on where residents of Mutare complained about the lack of information on the draft constitution which is supposed to be tabled before parliament on February 8 next week. One concerned resident said "How can we speak to a document that we have never seen or read? We would prefer to have the document in hand and read it as you make your analysis of it. Bring the draft to the people, let us see it."
    • On 04.02.2013 at a press conference the Constitution Select Committee [COPAC] officially announced its intention to table the draft and present the Select Committee's report when Parliament resumes on Tuesday 5th February. COPAC emphasised that the draft is for MPs' information only - it is only if there is a YES vote in the Referendum that it will be gazetted as a Bill which they will be asked to pass, only the report will be debated and they expect the debate to end on Thursday with the adoption of the report.
    • On 05.02.2013, notice of motion for COPAC Draft Constitution was made in parliament,
    • On 05.02.2013, the vocal National Constitutional Assembly issued a press statement titled "TAKE CHARGE: VOTE NO IN THE REFERENDUM" urging people to say 'No' to a constitution by political parties since the people must have their own constitution. The NCA called upon the inclusive government to ensure that the referendum is credible and that the people be afforded a free and fair framework to exercise their choice in the matter and in saying so, the NCA tabled conditions they demand including making the Draft available as widely as possible in the major languages and unfettered right to campaign for the referendum.

    Judicial independence

    • On 4 February 2013 the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights published an interview it had with the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Justice Rita Makarau and her deputy Rex Shana to talk about the work of the judiciary (ZLHR Legal Monitor, 04.02.2013). Justice Makarau speaks about the tough job of being a judicial officer in under performing Zimbabwe and how, with insufficient resources, the judiciary is making strides towards modernity. She bluntly comments on the alleged corruption pervading the judiciary, particularly at the Magistrates' Court level, and how determined Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku is to put an end to it.
    • Operating in an environment where the judiciary has to struggle for money, whilst at the same time operating in polarized political times, Justice Makarau says people have come to accept the judiciary's fierce defence of its independence. She admits to close interaction with the Executive and the Legislature, arms of government which many view as a meddlesome lot.
    • Justice Makarau also praises the Danish government for funding the Judiciary Services Commission's vital operations. On page 2, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku speaks about a new era in the judiciary after the coming into operation of the Judicial Service Act in June 2010.

    Women's rights

    On 5 February 2013, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition issued a Valentine's Day statement calling upon all people to join the One Billion Rising (OBR) Campaign which is sweeping across the world to take a stand against violence against women. It states that 'Zimbabwe is rising, joining over 190 countries globally, and is calling on women - and the men who love them - to get involved in a road show event of dance and testimony'.

    Regional perspective

    The Twentieth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union which was held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 27 to 28 January 2013 under the theme: "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance". Among other decisions, the summit took note of the Report on establishment of an International Constitutional Court and recognised the importance of the establishment of such court as an advisory and jurisdictional body responsible for ensuring the respect and promotion of democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law. The Summit requested the African Union Commission on International Law to examine the proposed establishment of an International Constitutional Court and make recommendations to the 22nd Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in January 2014.


    On 01.02.2013, the United Nations Humanitarian News (IRIN) carries an article on Zimbabwe titled Corruption feeds on Zimbabwe's poor which reports on worrying levels of corruption in Zimbabwe.

    Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum Analysis

    • With regard to the role of human rights defender and NGOs, we reiterate the views we aired in the last edition that civil society efforts should be focussed on empowering citizens at grassroots level in order to generate a critical mass that is able to both individually and collectively demand and exercise their rights. The state's persistent assault on NGO grass roots community work, is a clear indication that this sort of work will be a key game changer in the outcome of the next elections. Human rights defenders should therefore continue to demonstrate moral courage and follow the lead of Mr Machisa who stated that his arrest and incarceration would not deter him from working with the down-trodden.
    • Another interesting point to take note of is the diffusive rather than formulaic views on the role of the military. Hitherto, there has been a firm belief that the military will be a barrier to a peaceful transfer of power in Zimbabwe as they would upset the constitutional order if someone without liberation war credentials wins an election. However, the diverse views at the Crisis meeting in Bulawayo, is a clear indication that much work could be done with the military and security sector in general. An engagement of this critical sector is necessary and in order for a successful engagement to happen, it might be time Zimbabwean stakeholders question their own pre-conceived notions on the military.
    • With regard to the constitution, despite the likely spirited 'No vote' campaign by the NCA, it is our view that the constitution will pass uneventfully. However the NCA's points appear to be valid and therefore they should be granted an opportunity to campaign for these views, as part of the democratic process.
    • Also with regard to the constitution, it is also critical to recall that the European Union had stipulated in July 2012 that a peaceful constitutional referendum would be a key benchmark when they make their decision on 20 February on the second tier of Zimbabwean sanctions. With the EU currently haggling behind closed doors, it would be interesting to find out what benchmark they will use since the constitutional referendum will only come after their decision on February 20. There is likelihood that the EU will maintain the current position since there hasn't been a substantial change in circumstances. Their 20 February might end up simply being mere 'for mention' proceedings while they defer their substantive decision to July.
    • Finally, the strides that are being made by the judiciary towards independence supports the view that despite a palpable lack of progress in Zimbabwe, change might come if stakeholders continue to support institutional reforms particularly strengthening the judicial and legislative arms of the state. A revived judiciary, accountable legislature and empowered civil society would eventually put pressure on the executive towards democratic reforms.

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