Key Findings and Recommendations
The successful adoption of the new constitution in 2013 represented both an important achievement for political cooperation in Zimbabwe, as well as constituting a significant step toward the realization of a functioning human rights framework. The human rights situation remained relatively stable throughout 2014, with a significant improvement on previous years in terms of the severity and prevalence of incidents. The year commenced with a welcomed move from the Constitutional Court who ordered the acquittal of the Election Resource Centre officials, who had been arrested during the 2013 election period for conducting voter education without the authority of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
However, although this report Annual Human Rights Report 2014 FINAL VERSION pdf acknowledges the positive developments that took place during 2014, its main objective is to record and expose continuing human rights abuses in the country. Insufficient progress was made in addressing the policy and structural causes of human rights violations. In May 2014 the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs announced that the government had started aligning 400 Acts of Parliament with the new Zimbabwean constitution, despite the fact that human rights defenders had been calling for the realignment of laws from as far back as September 2013 with the Senate adding its voice on 8 October 2013. In spite of the measures taken, the year ended with a significant number of legislation still requiring alignment, for example the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). These laws continued to be applied by the state in order to clamp down on civil liberties; evident examples of this included an MDC threat to hold a protest march in August 2014 and the Dzamara case. The risk for the further deployment of these laws during times of high political activities remains high.
Despite the licensing of community radios in 2013, the government continued to exercise a monopoly over electronic media, and proposed various bills to regulate cyber conduct. Furthermore, the government did not follow on its commitment, made during the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) on Zimbabwe in 2011, to ratify the Convention against Torture, although figures for actual violations dropped. It should be noted that the unaligned laws listed in this section are not exhaustive and are fully listed from page 5 onward.
The constitutional court was inundated with people seeking relief either from direct violations or to test the constitution. In the latter category, cases were brought forward by MDC legislators, pertaining to the right to freedom of choice, freedom from discrimination of men on death row, payment of license fees to the state-dominated Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services and citizenship.
In respect of Chapter 12 of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe, which provides for independent commissions that support democracy, progress was insufficient and did not result in rendering the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the National Peace and Truth Reconciliation Commissions operational. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum and the Zimbabwean Transitional Justice stakeholders’ platform consisting of 46 members set up a Transitional Justice Working Group and called on Parliament to increase public participation in the setup of the National Peace Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), a constitutionally founded body mandated to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. Regarding the applicability of the Gender Commission Bill, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) emphasised concern over the gazetted draft bill stating that it needed revision prior to going through the stages of Bills in Parliament and prior to being enacted into law.In addition, they made recommendations that the Zimbabwe Gender Commission be protected from structural impediments that continued to affect the performance of other constitutional commissions. These included: a lack of independence, a lack of adequate resources, skewed accountability mechanisms, a weak mandate and a lack of public support and confidence in their effectiveness. Furthermore, these were applicable to other Chapter 12 commissions, which urged stakeholders to constructively debate the provisions of the Bill and ensure that the law would fully comply with the Constitution, coupled with the human rights obligations which the government had signed up for, so as to create a foundation for the smooth implementation and respect of the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination.
With regards to elections, the holding of 4 by-elections in Harare ward 12, Karoi ward 10, Zaka ward 32 and Chegutu ward 11 demonstrated that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) placed high importance on local governance. In all the by-elections, the electoral process was peaceful with fewer incidences of violence and voter intimidation than seen in previous years.
However, during the intra party elections, major irregularities were reported, such as the suspension of the Zanu PF Elective Congress, the assault of Elton Mangoma on the 15 February 2014 and the split of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The government continued to improve on its record of transparency, accountability and to a lesser extent citizen engagement. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) held public interviews for Supreme Court judges as part of implementing public accountability and inclusion in the recruitment process. These interviews set a precedent in terms of the new constitutional procedure for appointing judges, outlined in section 180(2) (c) of the constitution. The Ministry of Information conducted the Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), which was meant to solicit for citizens’ views on how to reconfigure the country’s media industry. The government also continued to work with the international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank under the Staff Monitoring Project phase 2, this served to validate the government’s commitment to improve its record on revenue transparency and to normalise its relations with the international community. However, corruption remained an overriding concern. The year began with huge revelations of corruption by government officials and state run corporations. The revelations mostly emanating from the state media, could also be viewed as the government attempting to show commitment toward exposing cases of corruption, especially if seen in light of the President’s controversial dismissal of ministers who were alleged to have been corrupt.
There were numerous developments at both the regional and international level. In relation to the neighbouring region, South Africa demonstrated a significant shift in its judicial approach to Zimbabwe’s human rights situation. In November 2014, South Africa’s Judicial Observer Mission Report on Zimbabwe’s 2002 Presidential elections (“Khampepe Report”) was finally published and publicly released. The report concluded that the 2002 Zimbabwe elections were not “free and fair.’’ Furthermore, the South African Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that the South African Police Service (SAPS) must investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe in 2008. These two developments demonstrated an instrumental change in South Africa’s overarching policy approach to Zimbabwe which hitherto has been inconsistent, seeking to balance principle and wider political considerations. Lastly, the European Union further normalized relations with Zimbabwe by lifting all the appropriate measures under the Cotonou Agreement. This move was viewed by many analysts as part of its democracy sequencing based on stabilizing the economy as a short term measure necessary to its long term commitment in building a democratic culture dedicated to going beyond the parameter of party politics. The EU efforts were augmented by a conference jointly held by the SAPES Trust and the U.S National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Zimbabwe from 5 to 6 May 2014 whose objective was to bring together all stakeholders necessary for the building of Zimbabwe’s national development and to deliberate and identify effective approaches to reinforce the country’s re-engagement with the global community and its commitment in supporting the democratization process.
This section outlines recommendations made to the government of Zimbabwe, the international community and to civil society and NGOs. The recommendations made should be applied by the relevant parties as a blueprint to tackle the specific ongoing areas that need to be addressed. Due to the precarious political and socio-economic landscape of the country and fluctuating human rights situation, these recommendations are not conclusive.
Recommendations to the Government of Zimbabwe
Generally the government must undertake a broad based and inclusive process to engage all its citizens to address all human rights in line with its commitment that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. In order to achieve this, the government must create an enabling environment for the realization of all human rights.
It should take concrete steps to fulfil its international legal obligations and commitments relating to economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights as spelled out in various international charters and treaties to which Zimbabwe is party. In order for this to happen, the government should take immediate steps to improve its responsiveness to requests for visits and cooperation by international community and institutions such as the UNHRC, the IMF – specially the Staff Monitoring Project – and the European Union under various articles of the Cotonou agreement.
In addition, the government should also take concrete steps to fulfil the country’s human rights obligations. They included the need to reaffirm the rights provisions in the new constitution, ensure justice and accountability for past abuses, uphold activists’ rights to organize and operate freely without government harassment, and strengthen the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
These specific steps should include:
1.) Enforce the rule of law and realise the importance of consistent economic and political rules and policies, including the indigenization policy, which must be more transparent, consistent and equally applied.
2.) Work with civil society and all Zimbabweans to align all laws with the constitution and undertake to begin implementing the new constitution in the next phase of constitutional renewal. This includes making Chapter 12 commissions operational as these are important in holding government to account and support democracy.
3.) Exercise political will to ensure the observance of the rule of law by all and in particular take action on illegal evictions.
Recommendations to the International Community
Specific steps should include:
1.) Engage the government and civil society to implement the above recommendations.
2.) Adhere to the rights based approach that aims to build democratic institutions and promote universal human rights while at the same time supporting inclusive economic growth, private sector development and improved livelihoods for the ordinary Zimbabweans.
3.) Adopt a long-term view of democracy promotion in Zimbabwe based on Zimbabweans’ evolving views, which for example, could be gleaned from a constitutional baseline survey referred to below.
4.) Continue to apply a variety of different instruments and soft power, including diplomatic dialogue, strengthened trade and business cooperation, leadership development, for example the Mandela Fellowship and an extensive development cooperation which should ideally be harmonised with the current IMF and World Bank Staff Monitoring Programme to ensure accountability, transparency and consistent policy approach.
5.) Continue to underscore the importance of the rule of law to Zimbabwe’s long-term sustainable prosperity. As a gatekeeper of foreign direct investment, satisfactory progress to the IMF standards would potentially open up foreign direct investment.
Recommendations to Civil Society and NGOs
CSOs working on human rights, democracy and development need to collaborate more and jointly support the government in legislative re-alignment and holding it to account.
Specific steps should include:
1.) Hold a constitutional baseline survey to enable ordinary Zimbabweans to set the agenda and priorities of the next of constitutional democracy renewal and re-invigoration.
2.) Follow and monitor the international community’s current lines of engagement, for example, the IMF Staff Monitoring Programme and current concerns on Zimbabwe’s sovereign debt, as these two issues, among others would enable CSOs to link all broad sets of rights.
3.) Hold both the government and the international community to account, to ensure that all the processes are transparent and are benefitting from broad based and inclusive multi stakeholders consultations. Read more: Annual Human Rights Report 2014 FINAL VERSION pdf