THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has updated the 77th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Session (ACHPR) on the worsening post-election human rights crisis, urging it to exert pressure on the Harare government to investigate, make findings public and prosecute people involved in post-election violence.
The ACHPR, inaugurated in 1987 in Ethiopia, looks into the protection of human rights across the African continent.
The Zimbabwean government has been at pains to sanitise the chaotic general elections, which were for the first time dramatically rejected by the Southern Africa Development Community Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) over gross irregularities that included failure to align with regional and domestic laws for free and fair polls.
Key observer missions including the European Union (EU) and The Commonwealth and the Carter Centre also red flagged the elections citing gross irregularities in the conduct of the polls.
While the government has maintained that the elections were free and fair, the Forum has told the ACHPR that Zimbabwe has not been upholding human rights in the post-election era, with a spike in cases of torture, harassment and abduction.
By 30 September 2023, a total of 153 opposition political party supporters, election agents and their families were in urgent need of relocation or safe housing, according to The Forum.
“The Forum presents this statement against the backdrop of the recently conducted 2023 Zimbabwe Harmonised Election. Whilst the government insists on a narrative that the elections were free, fair and peaceful, this goes contrary to our own observations as we were among the groups accredited to observe the elections,” The Forum said.
“We therefore request the Honourable Commission to exert pressure on the Zimbabwean government to immediately put an end to the unprecedented levels of post-election victimisation, and to show a genuine commitment to do so by setting up an independent commission of inquiry to conduct investigations into all reported instances of post-election related human rights violations; to make the findings of the investigation’s public; and to prosecute all implicated persons accordingly.
“Act immediately to restore public faith in the judiciary and in the Zimbabwe criminal justice system by facilitating the immediate and unconditional release of Job Sikhala, Jacob Ngarivhume and all political prisoners as well as withdrawing all trumped-up and malicious charges against politically persecuted persons.”
The Forum said while the government has been insisting that the general elections were free, and fair, this has been contrary to reports by accredited observers including the Sadc, the EU and the Commonwealth, which could not qualify the elections as having been free, fair and credible.
“Issues of concern include the closure of space for other political parties with rallies being banned by the police, opposition activists being arrested, the State media failing to afford equitable coverage to the opposition, the use of traditional leaders who are required to be non-partisan as well as being complicit in the death of an opposition supporter who was allegedly stoned to death with the police version being that he was run over by a lorry carrying opposition supporters.”
The Forum told the ACHPR about Zimbabwe’s shrinking civic space which saw opposition rallies, particularly those of the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), being banned by the police, with activists being arrested.
“People like the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s former executive director Musa Kika were denied accreditation to observe the election and yet he has no criminal record. How then can he be a security threat? An issue of partisan policing by the Zimbabwe Republic Police remains an issue of serious concern,” The Forum said.
“An example of such was the arrests of 39 Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Elections Resource Centre (ERC) staff members and volunteers who were arrested while conducting lawful, non-partisan election observation work. The country’s chief elections management body — the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had itself encouraged organisations to conduct parallel tabulation as ZEC felt this would dispel the notion that it manipulates the counting process.”
The Forum also raised concern over the increase in violence, which includes abduction cases, torture, malicious damage to property through arson, forced displacement of victims of arson, the harassment in opposition political party strongholds, particularly of opposition political party election agents, many who have been left in dire need of relocation out of fear for their lives.
“The recent arrest of lawyers, Doug Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi and even more recently Kenias Shonhai needs to be condemned by all right-thinking citizens. Lawyers are the last line of defence and should be protected and not persecuted for the work that they do.”
The Forum also highlighted the country’s worsening socio-economic crisis that has been underlined by chronically high inflationary which has eroded real incomes, with millions wallowing in abject poverty.
“On 7 June 2023, a dire outlook was provided by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe which indicated that the low-income urban earner monthly basket for a family of six now stood at ZW$1 015 962, 61,” according to the report.
“In essence, a family of six now needed over ZW$1m to survive a month. Teachers in Zimbabwe are critically underpaid, the impasse between the government and teachers in relation to wages and salaries, as well as the apparent inability on the part of the government to address this issue has led to the incapacitation of these essential service providers.”