The situation of Human Rights in Zimbabwe
Madam President, Honourable Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission, state delegates, NGOs and distinguished guests, all protocol observed. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum) continues to be concerned about the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe. In spite of the Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in Zimbabwe adopted at the 38th Session of the African Commission held in Banjul, in December 2005, human rights violations are still rampant in Zimbabwe.
The state continues to neglect its obligations in terms of the African Charter to promote, protect and to fulfil human rights. The reports produced by the NGO Forum show that incidents of torture, assault, unlawful arrest and detention, political discrimination and displacement, among others, are still rife. Compounded figures as at December 2005 show that a total of 4200 human rights violations were recorded up from the 2711 recorded in 2004.1 High on the list of perpetrators are the uniformed forces and impunity continues, as these violators are not brought to justice.
Repressive pieces of legislation such as Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act continue not only to be on our statute books, but to be applied selectively to deny activists and human rights defenders freedom of association and assembly and freedom of expression. This is so, despite the Government of Zimbabwe’s assurances to the African Commission that such pieces of legislation were going to be amended to bring them in line with the provisions of the Charter.2 Civil society groupings like the National Constitutional Assembly and Women Of Zimbabwe Arise continue to be denied rights to assemble yet government supporters are freely allowed to demonstrate.
Similarly, Constitutional Amendment no. 17, which oust the jurisdiction of the courts in land reform related cases as well as severely limiting the freedom of movement remain untouched. The effect of this amendment is to further compromise the independence of the judiciary. More repressive legislation is contemplated in the form of the Interception of Communications Bill, which will allow spying on electronic communications to the detriment of right to privacy and freedom of expression, while the Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill will curtail fair trial rights.
Psychological violence has also been refined, for instance, threats of withdrawal of food relief are largely still being used to force compliance particularly in the government managed “food for work programme” or donor food that is distributed through community leaders. Benefiting from government-managed loans largely remains aligned to the ruling party affiliation as the primary requirement. Shelter and government housing projects also benefit party faithfuls to the detriment of the populace housing requirements as has been documented in the few houses built under the government’s Operation Hlalani Kuhle/ Garikai (Better life). The realisation of economic social and cultural rights thus remains a mirage.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum thus urges the African Commission to draw Zimbabwe Government to its obligations in terms of the African Charter. It further urges the African Commission to remind Zimbabwe to implement the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission to Zimbabwe 2002 and the Resolution on the situation of Human Rights in Zimbabwe adopted at the 38th Session. The African Commission is further requested to urge Zimbabwe to stop enacting repressive legislation and repeal repressive legislation. Zimbabwe should be further urged to fulfil its obligations by providing the minimum core content in respect of economic and social rights particularly, food and housing rights.
1 Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Political Violence Report, December 2005 at page 7.
2 Article 1 and 2 of African Charter.