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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Statement on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe made to the African Commission on Human Rights at the 54th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    October 24
    , 2013

    Honorable Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; heads of Government delegations, civil society representatives, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.

    The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) on behalf of other civil society organizations in Zimbabwe applauds the Government of Zimbabwe for enacting the new Constitution, which though not a panacea for all the ills bedeviling the country, still remains a great stride in the right direction away from the narrow provisions of the Lancaster House Constitution. The new constitution introduced several positive improvements such as a more elaborate bill of rights with justiciable socio-economic and cultural rights, five independent commissions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a media commission, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and a gender commission.

    However, it still remains to be seen how the comprehensive bill of rights will translate to positive human rights improvements in the reality. There is still a lot to be done by the Government of Zimbabwe to align the laws to the letter and spirit of the new constitution and to make the independent commissions particularly the Human Rights Commission fully operational. In terms of socio-economic and cultural rights, service delivery in most sectors such as health, education, water, power and sanitation still remains below standard. Honorable Chairperson, the majority of Zimbabweans have to endure shortages of clean and safe water, erratic power supply and limited access to basic health care. The failure by the government to provide basic services recently resulted in about 31000 residents of Radcliff, Kwekwe, Midlands province being infected by tapeworms.

    Nonetheless, the finalization of the constitution making process brought to an end the political stagnation in the country and culminated in holding of the harmonized elections, on 31 July 2013, in line with the Global Political Agreement. Although the harmonized elections were held against a backdrop of several contestations regarding the announcement of the date by the president; the limitations in the period between proclamation of the date and the actual date of election, for any meaningful preparations to be done; and absence of key reforms in terms of the new Constitution, the elections were conducted in a relatively calm and peaceful environment compared to the 2008 election.

    Honorable Chairperson, despite the relatively peaceful environment during the elections, the credibility of the harmonized elections was contested. Mainly because of the lack of integrity of the voters roll. The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) and the Registrar’s General’s office failed to avail the electronic copy of the voters roll, as provided for by section 21 of the Electoral Act. Honourable Chairperson, it is sad that until today ZEC has not yet availed the electronic copy. The registration of new voters only compounded the already shambolic state of the voters’ roll, which was fraught with duplications, omissions and still remains in dire need of clean up.

    Furthermore, the elections were compromised by such disturbing electoral anomalies as the high number of voters turned away, high number of assisted voters, bussing in of people from outside constituencies particularly to urban polling stations and voter intimidation mostly in rural areas which was spearheaded by the traditional leadership. The Forum using statistics from its member and partner organizations recorded a total of 732 cases of harassment and intimidation during the election period

    The post election period marked the onslaught of retributive attacks mainly by Zanu-PF supporters targeted mostly at MDC-T supporters who had served as election agents or contested as opposition candidates during the elections. Reports of such violence were recorded in Muzarabani, Shamva and Mbare where victims were forced to flee their homes. The Forum, interviewed 17 victims of retributive violence from Westgate in Harare and Uzumba in Mashonaland East. This disturbing trend was however, reported from other parts of the country and most of these retributive attacks resulted in the internal displacement of people. Cases of this nature were brought to the attention of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) but due to the fact that the ZHRC has not been fully operationalized very little was done to address the issue. Consequently, instead of decreasing, such cases seem to be on the increase, with reports of such politically motivated retributive attacks received from KHB Farm in Chegutu on the 1st of October 2013, where several people were assaulted, property was destroyed and families were forcefully evicted from their home for supporting the opposition.

    Honourable Chairperson, it is also sad to note that land invasions that started in 2000 seem to have resumed following Zanu-PF’s overwhelming victory. For instance, on 14 September, suspected Zanu-PF supporters and war veterans invaded Shamrock farm in Beatrice belonging to an MDC official Silent Dube and abducted him before dumping him at a nearby army barrack. We fear that the lawlessness associated with the first wave of the land invasions may revisit the country, particularly considering that party supporters were promised land and stands during the election campaigns. Honourable Chairperson, the land reform exercise must be concluded to avoid continued disruption of agricultural productivity.

    In addition, the persecution through prosecution of Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe continues to be of grave concern as it reflects the perpetuation of the states’ hostility towards civil society. For instance the case of a prominent human rights defender, Beatrice Mtetwa, who was arrested in March for allegedly obstructing the course of justice is still before the courts of law. Abel Chikomo the Executive Director of the Forum on the 1st of July was summoned to stand trial on charges that arose in February 2011 for allegedly operating and managing an unregistered organisation. The trial is still to commence as the state keeps postponing it.

    Honourable Chairperson, with this in mind we are very concerned with the continuing shrinkage of the democratic space in the country. Peaceful protests have been intercepted by the police resulting in assaults and arrests. Notably on 19 September, police intercepted a march by members of WOZA as they marched to parliament to present their petition calling for improved service delivery in all of the country’s local authorities and demanding an enabling operating environment for civic society organisations. Jenni Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu and Taurai Nyamanhindi and a freelance journalist Tawanda Karombo, were arrested, detained for close to three hours and released without any charges. On 7 October riot police violently broke up a protest march by disgruntled wives of employees of Hwange Colliery Company in Matabeleland North over unpaid salaries for over five months. Two women were seriously injured and admitted in hospital.

    Furthermore, the government enacted Statutory Instrument 142/2013 of the Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations, which allows state security agencies to access people’s telephone call records, text messages and Internet communication,” Honourable Chairperson, these regulations are too broad and in the absence of clear safeguards and operational parameters, the legislation can be utilized as a tool to infringe into the privacy of citizens. It indeed poses a serious threat to the constitutional freedoms of expression and privacy.

    Therefore the Forum on behalf of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe, acknowledging the invaluable role that the Commission has played and still continues to play in ensuring that Zimbabwe adheres to the principles of good governance, and the respect of human rights, urges the Commission to ensure that the government of Zimbabwe addresses the issues raised herein. In particular, the urgent need to align national laws to the provisions of the new constitution, operationalise the independent commissions especially the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission as a matter of urgency, improve service delivery in all sectors, reign in on the errant land grabbing and unlawful farm evictions, stop the retributive attacks on opposition party supporters and the harassment of civil society.

    We strongly feel that, these positive concrete steps have to be taken by the government of Zimbabwe so that a society that respects, protects and promote human rights is cultivated in Zimbabwe.

    Visit the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum fact sheet

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