The Language of Intolerance, Intransigence, Authoritarianism and Violence in the “New Dispensation” in Zimbabwe

Executive Summary

Emmerson Mnangagwa seized power through the November 2017 military coup from Robert Mugabe who had been in power for 37 years. The “new dispensation” promised new reforms including, a living wage at the backdrop of lower unemployment rates, better and cheaper health care, freedom of speech and respect for human rights among other sweeping changes. However, the human rights record of the new dispensation does not reflect a government in positive transition. Rather, the human rights situation has further deteriorated from the pre-November 2017 era.

Episodes of mass human rights violations witnessed in January 2019 preceded by the 1 August 2018 post-election violence are a testament of the resurgence in human rights protection.

At the core of State-sponsored human rights violations is hate-speech driven by intolerance and hatred for divergent views. Hate speech takes the form of formal and informal statements from the ruling ZANU PF party and its members and supporters, as well as hate speech from the main opposition MDC and all its offshoots including the MDC Alliance and the MDC T. Hate speech, has been at the centre of inciting violence and entrenching fear within the masses. Tolerance, which can be measured through social dialogue, is a good measure for democracy, constitutionalism, and peace within a society. However, elections, protests and fundamental freedoms of expression which form an integral part of social dialogue, have been met with brutality fuelled hate speech.

It is no surprise, therefore, that this report shows that despite Constitutional provisions that seek to regulate hate speech and intolerance, the political environment is awash with hate speech. Political intolerance and intolerance for divergent views, in the name of political expediency, are the primary drivers of hate speech in the country. In turn, impunity fuels hate speech, resulting in a cycle of protracted intolerance. At the helm of hate speech,are high ranking government officials, who have publicly fuelled hate speech with impunity.

In the context of Zimbabwe, hate speech cannot be viewed in isolation. This report, therefore, focuses on hate speech based on the current context which is characterised by, corruption, deteriorating economic and political conditions as well as analysing the motivation, the actors and the outcomes of hate speech. It is the position of this report that, among other issues, proxies of hate speech, particularly the political and economic conditions be decisively dealt with. Apart from this, there is need for robust legislative and institutional reforms to end impunity, whilst curbing recurrence, as a strategy to end hate speech. In addition, there is an urgent need for the development of a code of conduct for the use of social media to curb hate speech.

The report also features a separate section on hate speech through the use of social media as this has become a new vector in political discussions. This section does not follow the general format of this report, which contrasts different political positions, but provides a brief overview of the problems inherent in media that is unsupervised by editorial bodies and frequently anonymous.

Read the full report here (4MB PDF)

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

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