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Tapfumaneyi Masaya, whose body was identified by CCC members at a mortuary. Photograph: Twitter


Human rights violations continue in Zimbabwe



ZIMBABWE’S human rights record has continued to decline, with a new report showing a rise in arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, unlawful attacks and killings, amid calls for the government to adhere to constitutionalism.


According to the latest report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International titled “State of the World’s Human Rights”, published this month, the country has failed to take measures against human rights abuses.

The report which reviews the state of human rights globally says Zimbabwe has experienced a worsening human rights record since last year, particularly in the run up to the 2023 general elections.

“The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be threatened. Members of the main opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), were the main targets of repression,” reads the report.

The report said University of Zimbabwe students Benjamin Watadza, Emmanuel Chitima, Comfort Mpofu, Lionel Madamombe, Gamuchirai Chaburumunda and Darlington Chigwena were all arrested at different times between 17 May and 8 June for staging a peaceful protest in the capital, Harare.

It said on 23 August, security force agents arbitrarily arrested about 40 staff members of the civil society organisations the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn).

The arrests were connected to the publication of a report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum detailing the electoral irregularities it observed on 23 August. After their arrests, police seized their mobile phones, and forced them to lie face-down for three hours.

According to the report, the civic space has continued to shrink, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa signing into law an amendment to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act, 2022, which criminalises citizens who hold meetings with foreign diplomats or any other foreigner.

In reaction, the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe has indicated that the Act is regressive and affects Zimbabwe’s bid to clear its soiled image.

Amnesty International said there was an increase in arbitrary arrests, with suspected state agents responsible for a series of abductions of opposition CCC activists, during and after the elections.

For instance, on 26 August, plain-clothes agents disrupted a CCC conference, and attempted to arrest party spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi.

This was followed by a series of abductions, including that of city council member Womberaiishe Nhende and his friend Sonele Mukhuhlani who were tortured before being dumped on the outskirts of Harare on 2 September.

On 23 October, James Chidhakwa, a former MP for Mabvuku, was also abducted, tortured and injected with an unknown substance, while youth quota MP Takudzwa Ngadziore suffered the same fate on 1 November.

In Mabvuku, Bishop Tapfumanei Masaya (pictured) was abducted on 11 November while campaigning for Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, who lost his seat through controversial recalls by self-proclaimed CCC secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.

Masaya’s body was found dumped in Cleveland, Harare, two days later, on 13 November.

The review has also highlighted a series of arbitrary detentions and arrests which saw the incarceration of former Mt Pleasant MP Fadzai Mahere and Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe (TZ).

In April 2023, Mahere was convicted of communicating false statements prejudicial to the state under section 31 of the Criminal Law (Reform and Codification) Act and fined US$500, after she posted a video on social media in January 2021 showing a woman struggling with a police officer while holding a motionless baby.

“On 28 April, Jacob Ngarivhume, the leader of opposition party Transform Zimbabwe, was convicted and sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment, 12 of which were suspended. He had been arrested in July 2020 for leading and organizing anti-corruption protests in the same month,” reads the report.

“Job Sikhala, former CCC MP for Zengeza West constituency, was convicted by a magistrates’ court on May 3 on ‘obstruction of justice’ charges almost a year after his arrest in June 2022, and ordered to pay a fine of US$600. On 28 November, he was acquitted on appeal but remained in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare pending his trial on separate charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct.”

In September, the authorities arrested lawyers Doug Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi, of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), for advising the police that their clients, Womberaiishe Nhende and Sonele Mukhuhlani, were in poor health and under medical review following their abduction and torture by state agents.

The report has also highlighted attacks and killings, with opposition activist Tinashe Chitsunge reportedly stoned to death by Zanu PF members in Harare’s Glen View South suburb on 3 August.

“He was believed to have been attacked while trying to flee from a Zanu PF mob who were attacking opposition activists at a rally,” it reads.

“CCC activist Vutisani Mushiyi was admitted to Chiredzi hospital after being attacked in the town of Chiredzi (South), on 4 August by suspected Zanu PF supporters. He claimed that he was attacked in retaliation for his refusal to quit as chairperson of the Chilonga Irrigation Scheme in Chiredzi South after a Zanu PF parliamentary candidate had tried to make him do so.”

According to the report, the country has failed to put in place measures that promote the right to health and women’s rights.

“Zimbabwe faced recurring cholera outbreaks exacerbated by poverty and inadequate infrastructure. The country grappled with a cholera outbreak, stemming primarily from a severe lack of clean water. As of late September, almost 7 000 suspected new cases were recorded, and by 9 October the death toll had reached 100,” it reads.

“The government failed to take measures to prevent and fully respond to the treatment needs of those suffering from obstetric fistula. Specifically, it did not develop an adequate policy framework or ensure adequate funding for maternal health, despite calls from civil society organisations to do so, and despite the issue being raised in Parliament as a matter of national importance.”

Teenage pregnancy remained prevalent, with 108 live births per 1 000 women and girls aged between 15 and 19, while the government’s pledge to reduce it to 100 per 1 000 women by 2022 is still unrealised.

Maternal mortality has remained high, with 462 deaths per 100 000 live births, according to the UN Population Fund. 

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