Constitutional Amendment Bill number 2
On 20 April 2021, the mutilation to our progressive constitution became real when 191 members of the lower house of the National Assembly passed Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 with only 22 voting against the Bill. The Bill will go to Senate where it is likely to sail through with ZANU PF senators conniving with the Douglas Mwonzora camp. The Bill is harmful to democracy and human rights because it allows the President to capture the judges of the superior courts among other unspeakable transgressions. The Bill also takes away important functions of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and places them under the Public Protector an entity that is not as Independent as the ZHRC. The bill also removes the running mates clause during Presidential elections taking away the power from the citizens to vote for deputy Presidents. The removal of the requirement to advertise the post of the prosecutor general and subject candidate to public interview aids to abuse of power by a sitting president. The Bill entrenches more power in the presidency. Read the full statement against the bill here.
While the Constitution allows for Freedom of Expression, this right is again under threat as the government of Zimbabwe attempts to legislate patriotism through the clearly unpatriotic proposed Patriot Bill. The Bill will criminalise fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of Association. We reflect on the proposed bill in our Independence Day statement here.
State Intensifies Attacks on Activists
On 6 April 2021, Political Activist Makomborero Haruzivishe was sentenced to 14 months in prison for inciting public violence and resisting arrest. Joana Mamombe and Celia Chimbiri continue to languish at Chikurubi. Mamombe was forcefully taken away from a Parktown hospital on 22 April while undergoing treatment following her falling ill while in prison. While activists are locked up for defending rights and fighting for a better Zimbabwe, the corrupt are protected and their cases keep dragging at courts. Listen to ZimRights Director speak against the victimisation of Joana Mamombe.
Police Brutality Continues Against Lawyers and Journalists
On 6 April 2021, journalist Samuel Takawira was assaulted by police while lawfully carrying out his media duties at the rotten row magistrates’ courts. On 30 April, ZLHR Lawyer Webster Jiti was briefly arrested and harassed at the Rotten Row Magistrates Court while representing his client Takudzwa Ngadziore.
On 15 April 2021, Legwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa were arrested at Rotten Row Magistrate court while attending Job Sikhala’s court case. The two were accused of demonstrating. While in police custody, the two were reportedly tortured and Mavhunga had an unknown substance poured on his face resulting in severe skin burns. The two as is now the norm with political arrests were denied bail on 17 April.
April was dominated by arbitrary arrests especially of perceived political opponents. On 23 April 2021, 9 Masvingo residents were arrested for taking their empty water buckets to the city council offices to demonstrate against critical water shortages. This is despite that section 77(a) that guarantees the right to safe, clean, and portable water. The 9 spent a night in cells and were admitted on $5000 bail each. Vimbai Tome was arrested on 6 April 2021 at Rotten Row magistrates’ courts after raising alarm that a police officer had fondled her breasts. Several other youths were arrested and charged with public nuisance. In Hwange. On 15 April 2021, Never Tshuma the chairperson for the Dinde Development Association which has been resisting a Chinese coal project was arrested accused of inciting the villagers to object to the project.
Business and the State continue to collude to displace indigenous communities in favour of capitalists. In Dinde, Hwange the community is under threat from a Chinese company that started coal exploration in the area on 15 April 2021 despite community resistance that the project violated their environmental and land rights.