Under a Darkening Sky: Zimbabwe’s Regression Into Repression and Recession – June 2020 Monthly Monitoring Report

Executive Summary

A cold June

In Zimbabwe, the winter season peaks in the month of June. But far from the usual cold weather the month brings, Zimbabweans across the country experienced a worsening economic situation characterised by price increases and inflation.

On the human rights front, the situation was no better, as the country continued to find itself sliding further into an undoubted military state as confirmed by the prevalence of human rights violations perpetrated by the police and the army with artless impunity.

For one Zimbabwean from Harare, who made a contribution while narrating an ordeal in the hands of the police, the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown measures in April have meant nothing more than an excuse for the State to descend on its citizens with ruthless abandon.

“Things have been bad in Zimbabwe for a while and as a vendor I am used to the running battles with the police, but since April when the lockdown started, I have witnessed and experienced more harassment than ever before. June was the worst as for some of us in the informal sector attempted to start working again, day in day out, we have faced unending harassment but all we are trying to do is to earn an honest living,” she said.

Her ordeal is the story of many Zimbabweans, who according to Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) human rights monitoring records of June 2020, make up 4,211 of those who experienced harassment and intimidation, attempted abduction, torture, rape and sexual assault, attempted murder, displacement, unlawful detention and malicious damage to property.

The perpetrators of all these, are, in a worrying trend, the very same institutions that should protect citizens and give every Zimbabwean a sense of security.

For the third month in a row, the Zimbabwe Republic Police(ZRP) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) contributed the highest number of perpetrators and this is largely due to the way the two institutions have approached the enforcement of lockdown regulations.

“The soldier just started hitting me with the butt of his gun, accusing me of not having adequate papers to travel into the city centre…” narrated one resident of Harare.

This incident is not isolated. ZPP has recorded 101 cases of harassment and intimidation, 29 cases of assault and 27 cases of unlawful detention, and most of these have been under the pretext of enforcement of lockdown regulations.

The police and the army contributed to a combined 58.2 percent of perpetrators of human rights violations.

While the figure is lower than last month’s 63.46 percent, it still presents a worrying trend as it speaks to the continued use of the State security agents to commit human rights violations.

Harare, once again, had the highest number of violations at 82, followed from a distance by Masvingo’s 30 cases and Mashonaland Central’s 28 and Midlands’ 26.

The continuing trend of the police and the army being the chief perpetrators of human rights violations confirm that this is not just isolated incidents, but rather, a systematic and unfortunate regression of Zimbabwe into fully fledged repression, where citizens live in fear of the same agents they should look up to for protection.

Apart from the repression, the economic crisis has gone full circle, and in the month of June, exactly a year after the Finance ministry reintroduced the Zimbabwean dollar, the local currency virtually died after government announced they would be paying civil servants up to US$75 to cushion them from the ravaging inflation, which has left the local currency virtually useless.

The war between government and its workers continues as labour unions have demanded full US$ salaries of up to US$500.00.

Government, which this month was implicated in high level corruption that led to the arrest of the Health minister Obadiah Moyo on corruption charges, has not shown willingness to make the lives of Zimbabweans better.

Moyo is being accused of illegally awarding a US$42 million tender to Drax International for the supply of Covid-19 drugs and personal protective equipment fully aware the company was not a pharmaceutical but a consultancy firm.

The informal sector continues to operate under strict restrictions, and civil servants continue to earn money that cannot buy even a pair of shoes. Furthermore, the promised US$ payments, which are not going to be given out as direct cash, have not been disbursed. Consequently, in addition to regressing into repression, Zimbabwe has taken many steps into an acute economic recession that has impacted hugely on various socio-economic rights.

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Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)