When we issued our report on the 1999 period, we made certain recommendations that we felt were necessary for an improvement in the human rights climate in Zimbabwe. We commented at that time:
The situation in Zimbabwe is undoubtedly a cause for major concern. Since the formation of the Human Rights Forum – in the midst of riots and civil disturbance – the socio-political situation has been deteriorating at an alarming rate. The near-demolition of the Zimbabwean economy has resulted in a huge increase in the number of very poor people and rampant inflation with massive and constant prices increases. There seems very little evidence that the ZANU-PF Government has any policy in place to deal with these problems.
We can only state at this time that the situation has deteriorated far beyond any expectation. The reports of the Human Rights Forum on the pre and post-election violence are adequate testimony to the exceedingly serious deterioration in respect for human rights. These reports stand alone in their condemnation of the human rights violations committed during 2000, and, most seriously, implicate the Government in the condonation, tacit and overt support for the perpetration of gross human rights violations. This requires the Government to take immediate steps to restore the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Apart from the political violence, however, we have also shown in this report that the general human rights climate has deteriorated very seriously. We have seen an enormous increase in the number of unnecessary shootings by the police, and also a greater tendency towards the use of torture, ill-treatment and brutality. The principle of minimum force is clearly not being adhered to and the Government must take immediate steps to ensure that the police return to the kind of behaviour expected of a well-disciplined force.
As regards the future, we can only re-iterate our statement made earlier this year:
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum wishes to express its concern for the failure by the President and the Government to affirm their serious commitment to the rule of law, and additionally for the Government to take positive steps to ensure an end to the political violence. Regarding the rule of law, we note the following:
- The failure by the Government to obey the rulings of the High Court in respect of the rights of citizens to property. All citizens have a right to free and trammeled use of their property unless lawfully restricted by the State, and, until such time as there are proper and lawful mechanisms for changing property rights, the State has a constitutional duty to ensure protection of citizens.
- The failure by the Government to ensure that the Zimbabwe Republic Police carry out their duties under the Constitution and the Police Act. Here it is important to stress the failure of the police to provide protection for persons whose property rights were and are still being infringed through the land invasions.
- The failure by the police to investigate crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping which were committed by supporters of the ruling party and the war veterans during the period preceding the general elections.
- The attacks on the freedom of the press, which constitute a very grave situation, and undermine the basic rights of all citizens to have access to information about the nation. These attacks have been made together with the blatant use of hate speech and racist rhetoric by a large number of Government ministers, Zanu (PF) officials and war veterans which are contrary to the laws of this country. The President and the Government have a constitutional duty to ensure that plurality of views is protected.
We thus call upon the Government to take immediate steps to redress these situations and to institute investigations under the law of all parties who are in breach of the laws as indicated above.
As regards violence, we note the following:
- A very large number of human right violations have occurred. Torture, cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment continue to be practiced on a wide scale and the concerns of the Forum expressed in earlier reports seem to have little effect upon the Government and the police. War veterans, members of Zanu (PF) and its supporters seem to believe that they have the right to infringe on other people’s rights without being held responsible or accountable at law. This seems to have been bolstered by the formal impunity contained in the clemency order.
- The Zimbabwe Republic Police displayed indifference to the plight of the victims during the violence and in following up on charges pressed by the victims. This indifference must be strongly condemned.
We repeat our calls for immediate investigations and prosecutions of all persons, irrespective of rank or political party affiliation. We condemn the clemency order and maintain our demand for the setting up of an independent judicial commission to investigate both pre and post-election violence.