2012 promised to be a crucial year for most Zimbabweans as preparations for the forthcoming elections and critical constitutional reforms appeared to be coming to fruition. During the first half of the year, President Mugabe was pushing for elections with or without a new constitution; and without major reforms, particularly media and state institutional reforms. The heightened expectations for elections resulted in fighting and electioneering among the political parties, especially during the first quarter. ZANU-PF revived its 2008 terror groups, which escalated their operations in Harare, Chinhoyi and Hurungwe. The militia violated citizens’ rights to free speech, assembly and association by disrupting or preventing MDC rallies and meetings.
In addition, for over a year, war veteran leader Jabulani Sibanda had been camped in Masvingo Province terrorising civil servants, traditional leaders and villagers and conducting rallies and meetings disguised as history lessons.
The escalation of violence during the first quarter gave sufficient evidence to suspect that ZANU-PF was putting moves in place to use the law enforcement agencies and the justice system to intimidate and pulverize the electorate into submission. This was compounded by the fact that the 2008 infrastructure of violence and repression was still intact and active.
The government also continued to use repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), some sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (the Criminal Code) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) to suppress rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement, and media and academic freedom. Human rights defenders, political activists, and ordinary citizens have been victims of harsh laws and many have been dragged to court for allegedly insulting or undermining the authority of President Mugabe2 using section 33 of the Criminal Code (a provision dealing with insulting or undermining the authority of the president). The corrosive effect of these laws has been the harassment and intimidation of political party activists, including restrictions on their right to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Insult laws also make it difficult for political parties to campaign freely and inhibit public discussions on important national issues.
The state media is still unbalanced with hate speech being used against political parties in opposition to ZANU-PF. Media reforms agreed to by the principals in the Inclusive Government (IG) have not been effected.
The Global Political Agreement (GPA) remains a troubled coalition characterized by bickering and stalemate. The political impasse has impacted negatively on the governance capacity of the country and has constrained peaceful political participation as well as economic progress.