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Violence looms large against the backdrop of the UN's call for cessation
Rights NGO Forum
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening
speech at the on-going UN Human Rights Council 22nd Session, raised
great concern that so many State authorities continued to ignore
or repress civil society organizations, human rights defenders and
the media. According to Madam Pillay, 'Such pressure or reprisals
against those who rightly sought to engage the international human
rights system should never be tolerated.' Although she did
not explicitly mention Zimbabwe, her speech actually typifies the
current situation in Zimbabwe. In this issue we provide some of
the vignettes to illustrate this. Among other developments, we start
on a note of hope by reporting on the recent case in which Zimbabwe
Human Rights Forum assisted a litigant to successfully challenge
impunity through judicial recourse. On a sad note, we provide a
political violence mapping
recently carried out by Heal
Zimbabwe, the tragic story of a boy who was burnt
to death in a politically motivated arson, as well as the current
crackdown on civil society organisations and the right to free expression
perpetrator of politically motivated violence Mr Garikayi Nyamakombo
is arrested and detained after the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum successfully
challenges the prevalent culture of impunity in Zimbabwe. Mr Nyamakombo
led two other ZANU PF supporters and assaulted Caleb Marange in
2006 in Marondera in an act of politically motivated violence. In
a statement, The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum welcomes this development
as a glimmer of hope in the judiciary system given the prevalence
of impunity in Zimbabwe.
motivated violations trends
In its Report
titled 'Trends of politically motivated human rights violations
(January-December 2012)', Heal Zimbabwe provides a detailed
mapping and analysis of politically motivated human rights violations
in Zimbabwe. The Report states that in the year 2012, Manicaland
and Masvingo provinces recorded the highest cases of politically
motivated violence while Mashonaland West, Harare and Matabeleland
provinces recorded the least cases for the year. The most common
forms of politically motivated human rights violations in the period
under review were intimidation, harassment and assault. The parties
involved in most cases were MDC T and ZANU PF members.
The Report also reports on the saddening trend that people in various
levels of institutional authority have been involved in committing
a number of human rights violations. Members of the police and army
have been singled out in a number of cases as spearheading political
violence on innocent civilians and members of political parties.
The Report further addresses the unfair distribution of food aid
especially in areas that recorded poor rains resulting in poor harvests
as another form of recurrent violation.
These cases of harassment and intimidation, the Report says, is
a strategy that is being used to send fear to people. The intimidations
can be viewed as dangerous in that, communities are still aware
of the violations they witnessed in 2008 and any stark reminder
to them that such misfortune will befall them is scary resulting
in many of them resorting to shy away from democratic processes.
2013 to present
political parties including President Robert Mugabe have called
for peaceful conduct during and after the referendum and national
elections, violence continues to be reported across the country.
According to Irin News, and also widely reported by leading Zimbabwean
civil society organisations, over the weekend, a 12-year-old boy
died after the shelter he was sleeping in was set on fire during
skirmishes between ZANU-PF and MDC supporters in Manicaland, 200km
east of the capital. The house was petrol-bombed by people believing
that the boy's father, a candidate for Tsvangirai's
party in the up-coming elections, was sleeping inside.
Some parts of
civil society are of
the view that the loss of a child and property to a fire caused
by suspected political arsonists in Headlands is evidence that political
conflict is still ablaze after the Government
of National Unity (GNU)'s national healing programme flopped
in Zimbabwe Coalition, 25.02.2013)
Trust Director Rashid Mashiya said the tragic incident only brought
out what is in the unhealed communities.
Freedom of Expression
The right to
freedom of expression including receiving and imparting information
or ideas is under severe threat after Police in Zimbabwe have announced
a ban on the
possession of shortwave radio receivers, saying they are being used
to communicate hate speech ahead of next month's constitutional
referendum and elections set to be held in July.
This ban has
been widely criticised across Zimbabwe. The Media
Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) - a group comprising the Zimbabwe
Union of Journalists, the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, the
African Media Women of Zimbabwe and other groups advocating
for freedom of expression - has condemned the ban on radio receivers.
In a statement, MAZ noted that "owning and distributing radio
receivers is not illegal and that confiscating them is a gross violation
of citizens' rights to receive and impart ideas and information
without interference, as enshrined in Section 20 of the Constitution."
Urging the police to reverse the ban, MAZ pointed out that it would
deprive people of an important source of information ahead of two
critical national events.
In a statement, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition states that the confiscation
violates section 20 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, section 38B
of the Broadcasting
Services Act and article 9 of the African
Charter of Human and People's Rights.
Crackdown on NGOs
In recent weeks,
police have also been conducting a crackdown on NGOs and human rights
groups, raiding offices, confiscating files and arresting employees
According to Parliamentary Watch (26.02.2013) and Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Republic Police Deputy Commissioner-General
Innocent Matibiri, who is in charge of Operations told a Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs chaired by MDC-T
Member of Parliament for Glenview South Paul Madzore, that 99 percent
of NGO's operating in Zimbabwe were Western sponsored and
pushing for a regime change agenda.
The ZRP, Matibiri
revealed had deployed "sufficient intelligence network"
across the country to monitor the day to day activities of NGO's
and some unidentified political parties whose operations he claimed
were motivated by devious intentions.
of secret intelligence across the country has been confirmed by
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (25.02.2013). Reporting on Masvingo,
Crisis states that "Sources inside the security sector have
revealed that a contingent comprising of a 10 member high level
gang of the Central Intelligence Organization from Harare are on
a tour to threaten, thwart NGOs work in Masvingo ahead of the referendum
and general elections." According to COTRAD,
the CIO team has a list of 10 people they are targeting.
Crisis, the current attacks echo similar NGO crackdowns in Masvingo
in February 2011 and also what was said at the ZANU PF 13th Annual
in Gweru in December 2012 where it was resolved to wage war against
NGOs. The full Report by Crisis is available upon request.
In a statement,
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on 21 February 2013 criticized
the three-party inclusive
government, for failing to prevent "a sustained and escalating
assault on NGOs involved in civic education, human rights monitoring,
public outreach and service provision - all of which are lawful
Public Order Laws
Watch (25.02.2013), on Tuesday 19th February Mr Gonese, the
MP who introduced the POSA (Public
Order and Security Act) Amendment Bill, tried valiantly, with
the help of MDC Senators, to persuade the Senate to vote for his
motion to revive the lapsed motion from the previous session seeking
the Bill's restoration to the Senate Order Paper. The ZANU-PF
Senators who spoke opposed the motion, claiming Mr Gonese had withdrawn
the Bill when he agreed to the POSA issue being dealt with at GPA
Principals level. The full Report is available on request and the
Bill as passed by the House is available from email@example.com.
On the evidence
available and based on previous trends, as the country heads for
crucial political processes, the instigation of violence is likely
to be both top down and bottom up. The bottom level violence is
likely to be both spontaneous and unpredictable. There is a high
likelihood of copycat violence and conditioned responses to any
attempts to upset the current political order.
Stakes are high
and there are large swathes of communities that have blindly bought
into the culture of violence including some of the apostolic sects
who have vowed to support the President under all circumstances.
Both civil society organisations and communities need to respond
to this in an evidence-based fashion as informed by past trends.
In our view, there is a need for vigilance as the police force are
likely to selectively respond to incidents of violence and selectively
apply the law. What will also be decisive is the extent to which
people who are committed to the cause of a peaceful election will
stand as each other's 'keeper' and agree on ways
to either mitigate harm or completely stay out of harm's way
, if at all possible.
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