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False Dawn RIGHTS
The Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Government’s Failure
to Deliver Human Rights Improvements
The Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Government’s Failure to
Deliver Human Rights Improvements
Copyright © 2009 Human Rights Watch
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III. Continuing Human Rights Violations
Political Violence against MDC Activists and Perceived ZANU-PF Critics
Politically Motivated Prosecution of MDC Legislators and Activists
Harassment of the Media
Persecution of Lawyers and Judicial Officers
Targeting of Commercial Farmers
Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in the Marange Diamond Fields
IV. Failure to Undertake Legislative Reforms
V. Delay in Implementing Institutional Reforms
VI. Lack of Accountability for Human Rights Violations
To the Transitional, Power-Sharing Government of Zimbabwe
To the Member States of the Southern African Development Community
To the European Union and the United States
I. Introduction More than six months after the formation of a transitional, power-sharing government in Zimbabwe between the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), there has been little progress in instituting any promised human rights reforms and in demonstrating respect for the rule of law. ZANU-PF, the former ruling party, wields significantly more power than the MDC, and ZANU-PF supporters continue to commit abuses against their perceived political opponents with impunity.
There is mounting evidence that the new government is failing or unwilling to end serious human rights violations, restore the rule of law, institute fundamental rights reforms, and chart a new political direction for the country. Despite commitments made by all parties, the new power-sharing government has not taken any significant steps to ensure justice for victims of abuses or hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account. Police, prosecuting authorities, and court officials aligned with ZANU-PF continue to conduct politically motivated prosecutions of MDC legislators and activists.
This inaction cannot be blamed on the country’s financial crisis, itself caused by ZANU-PF’s years of misrule before 2009. Instead, it is due to an absence of political will. ZANU-PF retains control of all senior ministries—including the Ministries of Defence, Justice, State Security, and Foreign Affairs; and it co-chairs Home Affairs. The party therefore wields significantly more power than the MDC in the government, and is unwilling to institute human rights and governance reforms. Although the MDC has formal control of some ministries, President Mugabe unilaterally appointed permanent secretaries to all ministries, ensuring that ZANU-PF maintains control of them. Lacking real political power to effect reforms, the MDC is unable to push for human rights reforms and appears to be giving ground to ZANU-PF in order to ensure the survival of the power-sharing government.
The Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed in September 2008, calls on its signatory parties to “build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality.” Human Rights Watch endorses this insightful conclusion and calls on the power-sharing government, as well as Zimbabwe’s neighbors and allies, to ensure that the country embraces progressive and sustainable change. If not, Zimbabwe risks sliding back into violence and chaos.
1 Human Rights Watch | August 2009 This report recommends a range of fundamental reforms that the power-sharing government should undertake to improve the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Without these institutional and legislative reforms, as well as the establishment of genuine respect for the basic rights of all Zimbabweans, there can be no long-term, sustainable peace and stability in Zimbabwe. These changes will also finally allow Zimbabweans to elect leaders of their choice. And once these reforms are in place, Zimbabwe will be better placed to attract international development assistance and private sector investment.
False Dawn 2 II. Update Human Rights Watch has been closely monitoring the human rights situation in Zimbabwe since the February 11, 2009 formation of a transitional, power-sharing government in Zimbabwe. The two parties made commitments to carry out reforms in a Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed on September 15, 2008.1 ZANU-PF in particular has shown at best negligible commitment and willingness to implement the far-reaching reforms envisioned in the GPA. At worst, ZANU-PF’s conduct has deliberately undermined efforts to restore the rule of law and accountable government in Zimbabwe. The MDC’s lack of effective power and its desire to ensure the survival of the power-sharing government is severely inhibiting its ability to push for human rights reforms.
For instance, the MDC has not forcefully insisted on justice and accountability for human rights abuses, nor has it attempted to bring the perpetrators of those abuses to book.
To its credit, the power-sharing government has managed, with assistance from international donors and aid agencies, to bring Zimbabwe’s serious humanitarian crisis under control and somewhat stabilize the country’s economic situation through a range of new policies, as set out in the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP). These measures have helped ease the harsh socio-economic situation of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable communities, especially as regards access to food and containing the cholera outbreak, which at its peak infected more than 100,000 people and claimed more than 4,200 lives.2 These gains, however, are built on foundations of sand. Zimbabwe’s economic and humanitarian crises have been essentially caused by institutionalized political repression and disregard for the rule of law.3 Unless the government makes significant improvements in its policies in these areas, including major human rights reforms, the advancements in the For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Zimbabwe published well before the power-sharing agreement, please see Human Rights Watch, “Bullets for Each of You”: State-Sponsored Violence Since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections, ISBN: 1June 2008, http://www.hrw.org/node/40484; Human Rights Watch, “They Beat Me Like a Dog”: Political Persecution of Opposition Activists and Supporters in Zimbabwe, ISBN: 1-56432-370-6, August 2008, http://www.hrw.org/node/62081; and Human Rights Watch, “Our Hands Are Tied”: Erosion of the Rule of Law in Zimbabwe, ISBN: 1-56432-404-4 November 2008, http://www.hrw.org/node/76102.
“Unicef: New Cholera outbreak ‘almost inevitable’ in Zimbabwe,” Mail and Guardian Online (SA), August 19, 2009, http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-08-19-unicef-new-cholera-outbreak-almost-inevitable-in-zim (accessed August 24, 2009).
See also Human Rights Watch, Crisis without Limits: Human Rights and Humanitarian Consequences of Political Repression in Zimbabwe, ISBN: 1-56432-429-X January 2009, http://www.hrw.org/node/79824.
Human Rights Watch, Crisis without Limits.
A free media is vital to improve accountability in Zimbabwe and ensure that ongoing abuses are both exposed and remedied. The media reforms that have so far been instituted by the power-sharing government are inadequate. The government allowed international media such as the UK’s BBC and the US-based CNN to resume reporting from Zimbabwe. But it continues to restrict freedom of expression for domestic media in an arbitrary fashion. For example, while the government has lifted restrictions on (but not yet granted an operating license to) a previously banned private daily newspaper—the Daily News—it has jailed journalists at other private media outlets.4 It is crucial to have a legal and regulatory framework that protects the media from unwarranted interference and harassment from state agencies. A parliamentary committee has held interviews for the proposed Zimbabwe Media Commission, but legislative reforms concerning the media, such as repealing repressive laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), have yet to be implemented.
Reforming Zimbabwe’s repressive security apparatus is essential if the power-sharing government is to ensure genuine respect for human rights and restoration of rule of law. The government has held just one meeting of the Zimbabwe National Security Council, notionally the new state body to oversee Zimbabwe’s various state security institutions, chaired by President Robert Mugabe with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai a member. But Human Rights Watch has evidence that the old, repressive ZANU-PF security apparatus continues to operate in parallel and unchanged. At the same time that President Mugabe was publicly announcing three days of national healing in July 2009, renouncing political violence, security agencies loyal to him continued to commit unchecked violence and intimidation against his political opponents.
“Newspaper editors face charges, arrested and released on bail,” Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) news release, Zimbabwe alert, May 14, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/zimbabwe/2009/05/14/zimind_editors_arrested/ (accessed August 24, 2009). See also “Govt gives Daily News licence to publish,” Zimbabwe Independent, July 31, 2009.
False Dawn 4 III. Continuing Human Rights Violations Despite signing a power-sharing agreement with the MDC, ZANU-PF members and supporters continue to intimidate, harass, and arbitrarily arrest MDC supporters and others perceived to be critical of ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF has also used its partisan control of the judicial system to jail human rights defenders and harass members of the media, all in direct contravention of the power-sharing agreement.
Political Violence against MDC Activists and Perceived ZANU-PF Critics ZANU-PF and its allies, namely so-called “war veterans” and youth militia, continue to commit acts of political violence against MDC activists in Zimbabwe.5 For instance, they continue to operate sites throughout Zimbabwe that are used for torture, beatings, and harassment of MDC supporters. Additionally, ZANU-PF youth militia have been using schools across the country as centers for abuse, under the guise of being local Ministry of Youth “ward coordinators.”6 Recent examples show how the pattern of ZANU-PF violence has continued since the GPA was signed. On July 3, 2009, ZANU-PF supporters beat up MDC activist Ebba Katiyo of Uzumba, Mashonaland East, accusing her of being a member of the MDC. Katiyo was assaulted by assailants who punched her, kicked her with booted feet, and hit her with sticks. A week later, on July 12, Katiyo was again assaulted by ZANU-PF supporters at a public meeting on the instructions of her uncle, the local village headman and a ZANU-PF supporter.7 On July 13, 2009, a well-organized group of ZANU-PF supporters and “war veterans” beat up scores of MDC supporters and disrupted a national constitutional conference in the capital, Many of the so-called “war veterans” are not genuine veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle of the 1970s, but individuals hired by ZANU-PF to commit abuses under the guise of “war veterans.” Many “war veterans” are too young to have fought during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in the 1970s; they are, however, largely led by genuine veterans who fought in the struggle for majority rule.
Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with local civil society activists N.D., P.H., H.G., and F.M., Harare, July 20, 2009.
See also Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Monthly Political Violence Report, May 2009, http://www.hrforumzim.com/frames/inside_frame_monthly.htm (accessed August 1, 2009).
MDC Weekly Bulletin, The Changing Times Online, July 21, 2009.
5 Human Rights Watch | August 2009 Harare. No arrests were made despite a heavy police presence.8 The police remain under the leadership of Augustine Chihuri, a self-proclaimed ZANU-PF supporter.