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Uneven and unpredictable current human rights terrain
Rights NGO Forum
of successive events in Zimbabwe over the past two weeks has rendered
the human rights terrain tenuous, uneven and unpredictable. The
repressive and anarchic conditions currently obtaining makes the
risk of human rights defenders being attacked all too real and predictable,
albeit, on the evidence currently available, the incidence of that
persecution is likely to be both random and arbitrary. Despite the
release on bail of some of the detained HRDs, attacks on civil society
operations continue unabated. In this issue we document the outstanding
incidents that occurred in the course of this week and conclude
that, given the current violations, there hasn't been adequate progress
in Zimbabwe to warrant a change of course by the European Union.
- On 18 February
Leo Chamahwinya was released on bail
as well as Centre
for Community Development Officers George Makoni and Gift
Konjani who were arrested
over the weekend (Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition).
- As this
was happening, on 18 February 2013, in the eastern border town
of Mutare, Manicaland's provincial capital, a journalist
working for privately-owned publication NewsDay, Obey Manayiti,
while reporting the threat to the police. He is expected to appear
in court Tuesday, 19 February 2013.
- On 19 February
2013, Zimbabwe Republic Police raided
the offices of Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN) in Belgravia. ZESN is a leading
civic organisation working on elections (Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights). According to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition alert,
the police warrant looks exactly the same as the one which was
relied on during the raid
Peace Project offices last week. The police stated that they
are looking for subversive materials, gadgets and illegal immigrants.
on Wednesday 14 February 2013, without just cause and in their
increasingly regular arbitrary manner, arrested
members who were part of the annual Valentine's Day "love"
protest outside Parliament
building in central Harare. On Thursday 14 February 2013, police
in Bulawayo arrested 195 WOZA members at a demonstration commemorating
Valentine's Day and assaulted them before releasing some
the above WOZA development, Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights is of the view
that, 'The arrest, assault and detention of the WOZA members
including blocking lawyers to consult their clients is a clear sign
that the democratic and constitutional rights of Zimbabweans are
still a remote reverie and that the coalition government has not
changed the situation for the better as some would want us to believe.
The right to organise and to assemble together with the aim of addressing
issues of common concern is a human right and an important means
by which citizens can influence their governments and leaders'.
Commenting on his Facebook page, the USA ambassador to Harare raised
concern over these incidents:
" . .
. As tough as it can be, governments and law enforcement must
be held to higher standards, must respond promptly and fully to
citizen complaints, and must uphold the law without political,
racial, ethnic or gender bias.
"The U.S. is committed to a prosperous Zimbabwe which respects
the rights of its peoples. As President Obama's representative
here, I am deeply concerned about the pattern of harassment of
civil society organizations and the use of violence against civilians
by elements of the Zimbabwe Republic Police - such as occurred
against protestors from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) yesterday
"All citizens - individually and in organizations --
have a responsibility to comply with the laws of their communities,
and to honor the right to gather and protest by doing so in a
peaceful and orderly manner. When citizens disagree with the laws
of their communities, they should first work to change them through
established means, not by engaging in illegal actions to impose
their own way.
"Zimbabwe will be stronger when the full rights of citizens
to gather and demonstrate peacefully are respected and protected,
and when citizens are assured of and respect the responsibilities
of a professional, non-partisan police force."
- In a separate
development, the Head of the Chiefs' Council Senator Fortune
Charumbira reportedly sang from the Zanu-PF hymn book sounding
an unconstitutional embargo against the free operation of Non-Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe, on Friday, February 15, 2013.
He said NGOs are continuously undermining the sovereignty of this
country by promoting regime change. He emphasized the need for
the traditional leaders to close down the space for NGOs (Crisis
- As the country
prepares for elections, the Zimbabwe Election Commission chairperson
(Crisis). This move has been widely condemned by some, for example,
Constitutional Assembly stated that, "Why has Mutambanengwe
resigned? He has not been working, allowing his friends in Zanu-PF
to dominate ZEC. It shows a lack of responsibility because he
has been in Namibia all the time,"
- As if this
has not caused a big institutional dent, Zanu PF Politburo member
and former party Chairman Jacob Mudenda has been appointed Zimbabwe
Human Rights Commission Chairman. This move has been viewed by
many Zimbabweans as one of the biggest betrayals and people are
especially not happy that the MDC appeared to have acquiesced
to this move.
on this development, Zimbabweans on social media forums are saying
is carefully calculated and people are carefully placed to make
it seem like everything is democratic....Yet our people can still
be tormented even if they go to the human rights commision..Hatina
kwekutizira..kumberi kune gomo kumusana kune moto'
'Its like employing a snake to investigate on the sudden disappearance
of a number of rats'.
'Zim suffers a lot & is still going to do so, not because
of the intimidation & violence of bad people BUT because of
the silence of good people'.
appointment honestly baffles me. It just undoes the precedence that
originally had been set by Prof Austin's then appointment. I struggle
to understand how the PM & DPM would give in to this. Am I wrong
to suggest that it's an appeasement of some sort to Mugabe?'
'Why does the MDC agree to this? Maybe it is time to replace
Morgan as he no longer has the Fight!!'
So you call the above progress? EU decision on Zimbabwean
While all the
above is happening, the European Union agreed to suspend the travel
ban on 6 members of the Zimbabwean government citing that there
has been significant progress in the country. In their final text
of the Zimbabwe, they said in part:
"The Council today agreed to suspend the travel ban on 6 members
of the Zimbabwean government. We have also taken 21 people and one
company off our sanctions list. This is in recognition of significant
political progress in the country. In particular, the agreement
between the political parties on a final draft constitution and
the announcement of a referendum. This adds further momentum to
the reform process and paves the way for peaceful, transparent and
credible elections later this year. We have made it clear we are
ready to go further as further progress is made. A peaceful and
credible constitutional referendum would be an important milestone.
We hope that all political parties will continue the positive momentum."
The above scenarios
clealry demonstrate that the Zimbabwean authorities are taking liberties,
with ZANU PF which is in control of the security sector unleashing
the police at will. Even the MDC has been coerced to be a partner
in crime either through acquiesence and/or inaction. The dominant
ZANU PF is even taking the liberties of playing a similar game with
the international community, by simply going through the motions
of feigned reforms for as long as such reforms do not etch away
their power base.
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