A NEW report by the Research and Advocacy Unit (Rau) has predicted increased organised violence and torture, particularly in urban areas, highlighting the need for more surveillance as the country heads towards the August general election.
Three months away from the election, key electoral reforms for a credible poll have still not been implemented.
While the Zanu PF government has been painting a rosy picture of tolerance against dissenting voices, new data has shown that incidents of organised violence and torture have been on the rise in urban areas, particularly Harare.
According to the report, Harare has witnessed an escalation in cases of violence between 2017 and 2021. Data in a Rau’s report titled A Short History of Organised Violence and Torture in Zimbabwe (1972-20) shows that the country is in a very parlous state — similar to the run-up to the elections in 2008, which was underlined by bloodshed.
“Some things are very different to the situation in 2008. The ruling party, Zanu PF, seems beset by serious internal conflicts, with some suggesting that there are those in the party who do not believe that Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current president, can win the presidential poll in 2023. This may give the forthcoming elections a much greater tension and raise the possibility of a return to violence,” reads part of the report.
Harare is the most frequent site of violations. For instance, the capital recorded 14% of all violence cases in 2018, which rose to 28% in 2019. The cases rose to 30% in 2020 and were pegged at 25% by 2021.
While there have been increasing rates of violations in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and the Midlands, among other provinces, the changes have not been as dramatic as in Harare.
The high incidence of violence has been attributed to Zanu PF’s strenuous efforts to win a base in the urban areas, and over-zealous enforcement of Covid-19 regulations by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
“There are small trends in both data sources for violations to be increasing, and not explained by the enforcement any longer of Covid-19 regulations. This trend needs careful monitoring as the country moves towards elections and the usual process of violence associated with elections taking place.
“Here note the violent events against the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) in 2022 beginning from the time that the reformed party became active, with violence and harassment being reported during the March by-elections.
“Overall, a total of 9 953 violations over the period 2019 to 2021. In past years the monthly average of violations in non-election years was 365 reported violations as opposed to 706 in election years. The monthly average reported by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) is lower than the non-election average reported, around 200 cases per month on average, but as pointed out in a previous report, this does not suggest that OVT has disappeared since the coup,” according to the report.
According to the report, a total of 52 murders cases were recorded between 2018 and 2021, 71% of which were allegedly committed by the ZRP, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), and Zanu PF supporters.
According to the report, the major perpetrators have been the police, accounting for 10% of violations in 2018, which rose to 20% in 2019. The violations increased to 30% in 2020, which further increased to 40% in 2021.
The army had the least, recording 5% in 2018 after the 2018 elections which remained steady at 5% in 2019.
The violations increased to 10% in 2020 which later slumped to 6.3% in 2021. Zanu PF however has been the major perpetrator of violence ahead of elections. For instance, the party accounted for 40% of violations in 2018.
The figure fell to 30% in 2019 after the 2018 election to 10% in 2020. However, the statistics rose to 27% in 2021.
“What is notable about the alleged perpetrators is the consistent increase in reports about the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), presumably with many reports dealing with events linked to the enforcement of Covid-19 regulations.
“Violations of human rights during lockdown periods is amply detailed throughout the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) reports in 2020 and 2021. There is also a decline in reports of alleged violations by Zanu PF supporters, from being the most frequent alleged perpetrators in 2018, but a resurgence is noted in 2021, presumably because of looming elections and reforming of the major opposition under the CCC as pointed out above in the previous section.
“Whilst the frequency may be less than it was in the years leading up to 2008 and there have been far fewer serious violations, it is not evident that the Zimbabwe government can claim to be human rights respecting,” according to the report.
The government has also been jailing dissenting voices. This month, Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala was convicted, almost a year after his arrest, and slapped with a suspended six-month custodial sentence and a US$600 fine. Sikhala was however not released from custody, despite spending over 300 days in prison, with the state arguing he has outstanding cases.
Another opposition politician, Jacob Ngarivhume, was arrested for leading and organising the 31 July 2020 protests. He was convicted by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka and has been sentenced to 48 months imprisonment, with 12 months suspended.