2021 proved to be another appalling year in terms of Zimbabwe’s democracy and human rights record. Democracy declined significantly and Freedom House classified Zimbabwe as not being free. The government intensified its attacks on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, clearly demonstrating a complete disregard for the Constitution. Arbitrary exercise of power by the executive manifested in the unprocedural and unconstitutional passing of amendments to the 2013 Constitution for the second time, whose net effect was concentrating power in the President, while subordinating the other arms of government to the overweening power by the executive thus consequently, eliminating the checks and balances underpinned by the doctrine of separation of powers.
In this report we highlight the failure by government to take meaningful action to ameliorate the plight of citizens as the socio-economic situation continued to implode. We highlight the general impact of the COVID-19 on the livelihood of the pollution and lament that instead of coalescing efforts around the common enemy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government decided to channel its energy and resources towards fighting civil society and HRDs, who ideally should be its partners for sustainable development. Regrettably the COVID-19 response measures continued to be weaponised to target those who are disfavoured by the government, leaving the populations to suffer the debilitating effects of the pandemic alone.
We also document the accelerated efforts by the government to close civic space through the introduction of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, 2021 and amendments to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The government announced that it had passed principles for the Patriotic Bill. These laws are not only designed to target HRDs, journalists and members of the opposition but to criminalise human rights work in Zimbabwe. This is a retrogression of significant proportions.
Attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists, opposition activists and citizens asserting their rights intensified. As fundamental freedoms continued to the stifled, we lament the use of criminal justice system and judicial processes as tools of repression. We emphasise that an independent judiciary is not only imperative, but it is a bastion for democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Corruption remained endemic as well as a major factor contributing to the deteriorating economic situation in the country. The government delivered poorly on social services. Invariably, special, and vulnerable groups such as women, children, people living with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly continue to be disproportionately affected by the situation resulting from the economic decline and poor service delivery. Poverty levels have increased significantly. This has affected the quality of life for the people.
As the Forum, we stand firm in upholding our vision of a society that respects all human rights for all people. We continue to call on the government to respect its social contract and respect and fulfil all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people. The people of Zimbabwe must enjoy their rights and freedoms without undue interference. We commit to monitoring, documenting, and exposing the violations including government excesses, challenge impunity and call on the government to be accountable to its people.
Read the full report here (2MB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum