This shadow report establishes that the Government of Zimbabwe has committed a series of abuses of the rights enshrined in the African Charter and has badly failed in its obligation under Article 1 of the African Charter to take legislative and other measures to give effect to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter. As a matter of fact the State has retrogressed by enacting legislation that is inimical to the provisions of the African Charter. A shadow report is a report that checks up documents, especially reports, that a government is submitting to an international body, in this case the government of Zimbabwe to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The civic organisations that produced this report have done so under most unsatisfactory conditions. The Government of Zimbabwe did not circulate its state report to all relevant stakeholders in advance of tabling the report before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Such lack of consultation seriously undermines the effectiveness of the process of State party reporting as an evaluation exercise.
Executive Summary of the Shadow Report
Over the period between 1996 to April 2006 the Government has passed a series of legislation that drastically curtailed many of the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter. It has criminalized dissent and protest by persons opposed to or critical of the Government. The restrictions are beyond what is justifiable in a democratic state. It has severely restricted freedom of speech and freedom of the media. It has made concerted efforts to purge the judiciary of independent judges and to replace them with judges aligned to the ruling party. It has sought to transform the law enforcement agencies from professional, apolitical forces in forces that will enforce the laws in a partisan fashion and will brutally suppress anti- government protest. Under its so-called Youth Training Programme it has indoctrinated youths and encouraged these youths to attack opposition supporters. These youths have been used in many instances to carry out police duties in contravention of Zimbabwe’s national laws and have performed these “duties” with excessive zeal. They have also been deployed with the police to forestall anti-government demonstrations.
The State party of Zimbabwe has failed in its obligations to protect. State agents and supporters of the ruling party have perpetrated many serious human rights violations and the Government has done far too little to prevent these abuses or to bring the perpetrators to book. Indeed some members of the Government have made statements that have encouraged or justified such abuses and many of the perpetrators have been granted amnesty.
Violations of economic social and cultural rights have been abundant. The widespread forced evictions in the year 2005 caused enormous suffering, leaving an estimated 700 000 people without shelter or means of support. The calamitous economic decline that has been experienced in Zimbabwe has pushed growing numbers of Zimbabweans below the breadline and badly affected health delivery services.
The human rights violations complained of in this report can not be justified on the need for land reform as claimed by the government of Zimbabwe. Equitable land redistribution in Zimbabwe was long overdue. However, the manner in which the Government carried out its fast-track land redistribution programme was unacceptable attended as it was by considerable violence. The exercise, noble as it was in principle, ended up in practice being a chaotic process with all sorts of criminal elements taking advantage of the program to enrich themselves.4 The chaotic land reform process resulted in a drastic drop in agricultural production and much of the best quality land found its way into the hands of high-ranking government officials, with some of the persons acquiring multiple farms. The manner in which the land reform program was implemented was incompatible with the human rights principle that those who are particularly vulnerable deserve special measures of protection and should be treated as priority.
This report demonstrates that the African Commission should call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to take urgent measures to address properly all these issues and to put a stop to the widespread abuses of human rights that have been occurring.