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ZPP Monthly Monitor – March 2013
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
May 14, 2013

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Executive Summary

The constitutional referendum held on March 16, 2013 was a step towards the holding of elections later this year but the event also provided the government an opportunity to test its electoral systems. The referendum provided political parties an opportunity to hold rallies in support of the document leading to people’s rights being violated. The number of politically motivated violence declined significantly during the monthly mainly because the country’s major political parties were all in support of the draft constitution. There were 382 incidents recorded in March down from the 421 cases witnessed in February.

While the major political parties were able to freely urge their supporters to vote yes in the referendum, it was not the case for other actors such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and its allies who were campaigning for a no vote. The NCA had one of its meetings blocked by the police in Chipinge on the pretext that they had not sought police clearance. The referendum exercise also provided the platform and source of conflict during the period under review as citizens were force marched to attend rallies in support of the constitutional draft. Several reports of traditional leaders reportedly gathering their subjects and ordering them to vote yes were received from Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.

The police continued to target human rights NGOs with the arrest and detention of Zenzele Ndebele, the Editor of Radio Dialogue on allegations of smuggling solar-powered and windup radio sets into the country in contravention of Section 182 of the Customs and Excise Act or alternatively with failure to produce a listeners' licence. Ndebele, who was arrested on Friday 1 March 2013, was interrogated by the police over the possession of 180 radio sets which the police allegedly seized from the Radio Dialogue offices in Bulawayo, was released into the custody of his lawyers.

Zimbabwe Peace Project National Director Jestina Mukoko voluntarily handed herself to the police at Harare Central Police Station on March 8 after the Zimbabwe Republic Police claimed in a public statement on state radio and television that she was on the run. Beside the message by the police, Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri also mentioned that police were looking for Mukoko. She was subsequently charged with two counts of contravening the Private Voluntary Organisations Act Section 6 (2) and (3) of the PVO Act Chapter 17:05. Furthermore, the police preferred additional charges which included contravening the Broadcasting Services Act Section 38E (1) (a) for allegedly refusing or failing to register as a dealer and Section 182 of the Customs and Excise Act Chapter 23:03 for allegedly smuggling radios and cellphones.

A warned and cautioned statement was recorded from Mukoko in the presence of her legal team comprising of Beatrice Mtetwa, Harrison Nkomo, Tarisai Mutangi, Tonderai Bhatasara and Tawanda Zhuwarara who are all members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Mukoko denied all the charges and explained to the police that none of ZPP’s activities were in any way illegal. In her statement to the police she also raised the irregularity of the charges and more importantly that she could not be charged in her personal capacity. Mukoko was then released into the custody of her lawyers after the interrogation and the police indicated that they would advise of any further action after assessing the docket.

In the period under review the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission also found reason to disqualify organizations such as the Zimbabwe Peace Project and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association from observing the referendum on the basis that the organizations were under police probe. However, ZPP eventually received a letter authorizing it to observe the referendum weeks after the referendum.

On 17 March 2013, police arrested four members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office. They were arrested and charged with impersonation after they were found in possession of dockets on corruption. Their lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who had been called to attend a raid at Thabani Mpofu’s residence one of the staffers, was also arrested for obstructing the course of justice for allegedly asking for a search warrant. Mtetwa was held in custody and only released a week later on bail despite a High court ruling by Justice Charles Hungwe to release her. Mtetwa was only released on 25 March 2013 after High Court Judge Justice Joseph Musakwa ruled that a Harare magistrate had erred in denying her bail.

Pressure on civic society continued in the country with demands for Memoranda of Understanding by government officials being recorded in Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces.

Despite the fact that the numbers of politically motivated human rights violations remain subdued, political tensions are very high as political parties move to prepare for the upcoming harmonised elections. Political factions have emerged within the MDC-T party and Zanu-PF parties related to the selection of candidates. For example the MDC-T intra-party conflict between Morgan Komichi and Xavier Edziwa was evidenced after Morgan Komichi allegedly declared that other party members should not contest against him as he should be respected as a national leader. However, Edziwa argues that the MDC-T is for democracy and therefore no one was immune. The MDC-T Sanyati District which is reported to be against Komichi allegedly signed a petition sent to the national executive challenging Komichi’s decisions.

On 29 March 2013, intraparty conflict turned nasty as violence erupted at Mubaira Township when two Zanu-PF factions reportedly clashed. Two factions have emerged since January when a candidate only known as Shamuyarira made known his intentions to challenge sitting MP Sylvester Nguni. Zanu-PF youths campaigning for Shamuyarira were allegedly attacked by Zanu-PF provincial youth chairperson known as Dommy and other supporters of Nguni. Two people were seriously injured in the attack and were taken to hospital and released the following day. Property at some shops was damaged during the attack but no one was arrested in connection with the violence.

An analysis of the violations trends shows that March 2013 witnessed the lowest number of human rights violations since 2008 despite the fact that there was an election in the form of the constitutional referendum. The highest number of recorded violations during the month of March was in 2009 just a month after the formation of the inclusive government with 1552 cases.

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