Statement on human rights situation in Zimbabwe presented at the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights held from 25 April to 9 May in Nouakchott, Mauritania

The Honourable Chairperson, Honourable Commissioners, state delegates, ladies and gentleman, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) presents this statement on the occasion of the 62nd Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Following the last update presented during the 61st Ordinary Session in Banjul, there has not been much change but very disturbing political and social developments.

On 15 November 2017, in an unprecedented move, the military took over the running of government under the pretext that they were targeting criminals around the former President Robert Mugabe. Robert Mugabe was then replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in as President.

Although the military vehemently denied that their actions were tantamount to a coup d’etat, the 15 November 2017 situation sets a bad precedent on the role of the military in Zimbabwe and Africa at large.

Social and economic rights – liquidity challenges – with the severe shortage of the United States dollars have fuelled a parallel market that has led to price increases of basic commodities making these unaffordable for the ordinary person. Of concern is the failure by government to allocate adequate funding to critical health and education sectors. Between 1 March and 1 April 2018 there was an industrial action by doctors and support staff at public health institutions which paralysed the public health sector for three weeks.

As I present this statement, the Vice President, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga issued an order through a press statement to fire some nurses who were protesting poor working conditions and low salaries. This discontent in the health sector has exposed patients to lack of care and loss of life in some instances. There has been very little investment to improve the infrastructure at schools. Most parents are not able to pay school fees on time and at time their children have been denied access to their examination results. Housing – Internal displacements, arbitrary evictions continue to be witnessed and the have been affecting former farm workers and some residents in high density suburbs. Right to work – unemployment remains very high. Those resorting to informal trading still encounter numerous challenges that include never ending running battles with the municipal police.

Civil and political rights –The President has promised free, fair and credible elections. However, reforms to election related laws such as the Electoral Act, Political Parties Finance Act remain outstanding. Elections are due to be conducted in July or August 2018. Numerous incidents of politically motivated acts of intimidation of voters have been documented. Zimbabwe African National Unity Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) has been at the forefront of compelling people to submit their biometric voter registration slip serial numbers. In past elections traditional leaders have frog marched their subjects to polling stations and compelled them to vote for ZANU PF. The President of the Chiefs Council has publicly declared that chiefs will ensure their subjects vote for ZANU PF in direct violation of political rights provided in the Zimbabwean Constitution and requirements that chiefs must not support any political party as stated in the Constitution. Police have also violently dispersed protests by students, ordinary citizens and denied civil society the right to protest. On 22 February 2018, at least two innocent citizens were killed after police used excessive force.

Institutions supporting democracy – The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is still under resourced. This has limited its capacity to fulfil its human rights protection mandate. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that is supposed to be dealing with addressing transitional justice related issues of the past is also underfunded to effectively discharge its constitutional mandate. Concerns over independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its capacity to manage free and fair elections have not been addressed.

Law and institutional reform – Repressive or draconian laws that negatively impact on enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms that include assembly, association, and expression have not been repealed or aligned with Constitution five years on. Further institutions that must be at the forefront of protecting human rights such as the police are yet to be reformed.

ZLHR therefore urges the Commission to call upon the government of Zimbabwe to:

  • Return to a full constitutional democracy, transfer power through democratic processes;
  • Provide adequate funding to the health and education sector and revoke the dismissal of nurses and immediately improve their conditions of service;
  • Protect the right to housing for all;
  • Guarantee political rights of citizens ahead of the elections, and create an environment in which the rights to assembly, expression and association are promoted ahead of the elections;
  • Provide adequate resources and guarantee the independence of institutions supporting democracy;
  • Fully align all laws with the Constitution and reform institutions for them to efficiently and effectively discharge their constitutional mandate.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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