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Rise in human rights violations in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
November 14
, 2013

This week the world literally stopped as it stood in solidarity with the victims of storm Haiyan in the Philippines. On 11 November, during Armistice Day, the world again stopped to remember those who lost their lives during the ravaging world wars. As the world stood still in solidarity, the Zimbabwean Government did not stop to unleash torment on its long-suffering people. Families lost businesses and other means of livelihood as government razed ‘illegal’ structures that comprised convenience stores on the outskirts of Harare and threatened to raze houses down in the satellite city of Chitungwiza. The Government did not stop there, but judicially persecuted a leading human rights defender and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s Executive Director Abel Chikomo whose trial for running an ‘illegal’ organisation commenced on 13 November.

At a time when the Government is pleading with the international community for re-admission in to the international fold and for the world to feed its estimated 2.2 million people who are facing starvation, one would think they would begin to soften on their legacy of human rights violations. This would, one would think, earn them legitimacy through performance, having lost legitimacy during the recent elections. However this is not the case as events of this week reveal. The hopes brought by the recent government’s recent appointment of the Prosecutor General to bring in more accountability, is likely to be short lived if the legacy of judicial persecution does not cease.

The trial of Abel Chikomo, finally commenced on Wednesday 13 November 2013 with the human rights campaigner pleading not guilty to charges of running an “unregistered” organisation in a court hearing viewed as yet another official harassment of civic organisations and human rights defenders. Chikomo was arrested in 2011 and his case on charges of contravening Section 6 (3) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act (Chapter 17:15) took almost three years to be brought to trial.The human rights campaigner stated that Section 2 of the PVO Act exempts “anybody or association of persons, corporate or unincorporated the benefits from which are exclusively for its own members.” He said the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is a forum, association and common law universitas of 20 member organisations

In a separate occurrence, On 6 November 2013 the government started demolishing housing structures, which it alleges, were illegally built. The demolished structures included convenience shops (tuck-shops) in Ruwa and Damofalls warning that the programme would be rolled out in all urban centres throughout the country. Human Rights Groups have noted with great concern the recent announcements by the Government of Zimbabwe to demolish tens of thousands of houses in Harare and Chitungwiza. They castigated in the strongest of terms the abrupt manner in which the process intends to proceed with no clear alternative plan.

The threatened demolitions have caused untold psychological trauma to the people who are likely to be affected. In its report, Heal Zimbabwe Trust highlighted on the plight of women, children and those living with HIV especially as this happens with the approaching rain season.

At a time when the world is desperately helping the victims of the Philippines storm, it is sad that some governments are inflicting storms on their own people instead of standing in solidarity with the suffering Philippines. The operation only reminds Zimbabweans of the infamous Operation Restore Order in 2005, when in her report Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka UN Special Envoy on Human Settlement Issues, after the infamous Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 stated ‘while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks. Immediate measures need to be taken to bring those responsible to account, and for reparations to be made to those who have lost property and livelihoods.... 'The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights issued an Ultimatum on 6 November to the Government to desist from the threatened operation.

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