Tuesday 20 April 2021 Parliament passed the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Bill (the Bill) with 191 votes in favour and 22 opposing votes. This marked the death of democracy in Zimbabwe. The Constitution of Zimbabwe (No.2) Bill is manifestly conspicuous in its intention to consolidate and solidify the President’s position ahead of the 2023 elections and beyond. This is derived from key proposed changes such as removing the running mate clause, extending the tenure of Judges among other key changes. The extension of tenure of Judges would ensure that the Chief Justice retains power, unfortunately, for the seeming purpose of securing and protecting the government’s interests during legal processes. This is in flagrant disregard of the role of the judiciary as independent and apolitical.This is also set to widen the gap between citizens and the State due to a mutual lack of trust and suspicion. Suspicion on the part of the State has been observed through the daily deployment of law enforcement officers at every street corner in major city centres, as well as the proposed Patriotic Bill.
The human rights terrain in the country also continued to deteriorate with the arrest, conviction and torture of dissenting voices,on seemingly frivolous charges being observed. It is disheartening to note the forced removal of Harare West Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe from Parktown Hospital where she had been receiving treatment after her health condition deteriorated at Chikurubi Prison. This was despite her doctor’s advice that she is gravely ill and needs specialist medical attention.
Apart from this saddening illustration of the abuse of power by the State, law enforcement officers have continued to adopt an adversarial approach against civilians under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 regulations. Some of the reports also point to an increase in solicited bribes by law enforcement officers. On another note, there is general defiance of the COVID-19 protocols across the nation which creates the risk for a third wave of the virus and subsequently the elevation of lockdown regulations.
The supposed deployment of Zimbabwean troops into Mozambique is an obvious matter for concern with the history of the disastrous effects of the DRC intervention on the economy. Excessive military spending will devastate the economy even further.
As of 22 April 2021, Zimbabwe had 38 018 confirmed cases, including 35 073 recoveries and 1 555 deaths. To date, a total of 308 071people have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care noted the slow uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination program. These sentiments were also echoed by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) who noted that the Ministry of Health and Child Care should increase their efforts in relation to vaccine literacy. ZADHR called for enhanced public campaigns to popularise the vaccine roll-out plan and dispelling myths and misconceptions around the vaccines.
As incidences of defiance of the COVID-19 regulations continue, the Zimbabwe Republic Police(ZRP) National Spokesperson,Assistant Commissioner,Paul Nyathi, has indicated that bars, clubs and all operators who defy the COVID-19 regulations risk losing their operating licenses. On another note, the Forum received 4 cases in which law enforcement officers charged fines in USD but failed to produce receipts. In one of the incidences in Marondera, an individual who was caught without a face mask was asked to pay a USD 10 fine although they were not given a corresponding receipt.
On 6 April 2020, police officers arrested Vongai Tome, at Rotten Row Magistrate Court in Harare after she raised alarm that a police officer who was trying to disperse journalists had fondled her breast. Subsequently, police officers charged her with public nuisance and failure to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing regulations. MDC Alliance youths and journalists were scrambling to interview Makomborero Haruzivishe’s legal counsel, Fadzai Mahere,when the alleged indecent assault took place. During the same incident, Kudakwashe Butau, Ngonidzashe Mupumba and Patrick Shumbawere also arrested on allegations of public nuisance and assaulting a police officer.
Assault and torture
On 15 April, Lengwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa were arrested at Rotten Row Magistrate’s Court in Harare for allegedly participating in a demonstration. The duo who had come to the Court in solidarity with Job Sikhala were arrested and detained at Harare Central Police Station. The duo was subsequently tortured including falanga and indiscriminate assaults. Law enforcement officers discharged a caustic substance on Mavhunga’s face which has since resulted in skin burns. They were denied bail on 17 April and subsequently hospitalised at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
On 2 April 2021, ZRP officers at Mvurwi Police Station allegedly unleashed police dogs on Benjamin Mutsandiani, who was mauled on the left leg and passed out before being taken to the police station to pay a fine. It is alleged that police officers set their dogs on Mutsandiani around 8pm when he was spotted attempting to relieve himself. It is further alleged that the police officers refused to provide a medical affidavit which was required for Mutsandiani to get medical assistance.
Attacks against journalists
Journalist Samuel Takawira was assaulted by police officers with baton sticks while filming a group of police officers who had been deployed at the Harare Magistrates’ Court. The assault happened after the sentencing of MDC Alliance activist Haruzivishe Makomborero. Takawira sustained injuries on his hand as a result of being struck by a truncheon by a police officer.
The infamous denial of bail for human rights defenders and dissenting voices which has become common place continued over the past week with the denial of bail for Joana Mamombe, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova as well as Lengwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa. This also comes after Harare Magistrate, Judith Taruvinga, sentenced MDC Alliance activist, Makomborero Haruzivishe, to an effective 14 months imprisonment for inciting public violence and resisting arrest on 6 April 2021.
Summary of Violations
Below is the summary of human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 5 January 2021 to 23 April 2021.
- There were 35 assault and torture cases recorded in Hwange, Binga, Bulawayo, Chipinge, Fig Tree, Gweru, Mt Darwin, Harare, Beitbridge, Mutare and Mvurwi.
- 47 arbitrary arrests were recorded in Gweru, Nkulumane, Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo.
- In Harare and Masvingo a total of seven attacks against journalists were recorded.
- One extra-judicial killing was recorded in Gweru.
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum