Civil Society Submission to the APRM in Zimbabwe: 2020/2021

The Zimbabwean APRM Civil Society Working Group has identified and discussed 11 broad issues in this submission, making substantive recommendations to address each of them. Read on to get more on these issues and recommendations made.


Zimbabwe exhibits the form rather than substance of constitutionalism. The current Constitution, adopted in 2013, affirms a broad spectrum of rights, as well as the separation of powers and associated checks and balances. In reality, Zimbabwean governance is dominated by the Executive, and neither of the other branches have proven to be significant checks on its actions. Recent amendments to the Constitution, among other things, grant the president greater powers in appointing judges, diluting judicial independence and expanding the power of the Executive. Zimbabwe is also lagging behind in aligning laws to the new Constitution, including making necessary changes to the Electoral Act. A number of commissions mandated by the Constitution have been established, but questions remain about their independence and competence. These include the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which appears to have accepted instructions from the Executive. It has failed to establish an independent complaints mechanism to deal with complaints of abuse against the security forces. Among other things, civil society seeks the respect of the Constitution, the alignment of laws with it and the full independence of the Electoral Commission.

Good Governance

Zimbabwe’s record on human rights and open governance has historically been poor, with abuses continuing into the present. The Constitution guarantees a full list of rights, as well as an institution – the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission – to assist in realising them. It has shown considerable fortitude in criticising state abuses, although with limited receptiveness from the government. Governance has been shrouded in secrecy, with civil society excluded from policymaking and government inveterately suspicious.

Rule of Law, Militarisation of Politics and Organised Violence

Formally committed to the rule of law, Zimbabwe’s adherence to the idea is notional rather than real. With its overweening dominance, the Executive has subordinated the other branches of government and weaponised the Judiciary against its opponents. Constitutional amendments and the use of wide-ranging presidential powers further reinforce this. Concurrently, dissent is little tolerated. Rights defenders are harassed, while outright violence and torture is used against opponents of the government. Perpetrators enjoy impunity. Zimbabwe has come heavily under the sway of the military – it has long exercised a role in the country’s politics and a number of senior officers now hold high political office. All of this has undermined democratic control and created a climate of fear. Civil society demands that the government should expeditiously act against the use of violence and torture by its agents, institute transitional justice mechanisms to address the historical injustices and insists on professional, disciplined conduct by the security forces. An independent complaints mechanism should be established. Regional and continental organisations should publicly condemn all acts and perpetrators of politically motivated violence.

Access the full report here (1MB PDF)

Source: SIVIO Institute

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