WHEN President Emmerson Mnangagwa got into power in 2017 on the back of a military coup, he enjoyed plenty of goodwill at home and abroad,. with the British willing to engage even though the United States was sceptical.
Mnangagwa was making the right sounds at that time, preaching zero tolerance to corruption, an end to human rights abuses, respecting property right and promising policies¹e1 that would invite investors.
However, six years after the coup, Zimbabwe is back to Zanu PF’s default settings which have seen the country experiencing a new wave of abductions reminiscent of the late President Robert Mugabe’s time and rigged elections.
A recent statement by Amnesty International confirms the development and reflects the views of several other regional international rights bodies.
The statement says the country’s human rights record has continued worsening under Mnangagwa’s watch over the past five years, amid calls for the government to adhere to constitutionalism to protect people’s rights.
According to the latest review published by the human rights watchdog titled Zimbabwe: Human Rights Under Attack, the country has failed to remedy the repressive legacy left by Mnangagwa’s predecessor, the late Mugabe.
The report, which reviews the human rights situation in the period between 2018 and 2023, urges the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community to pay close attention to the deteriorating human rights situation to ensure safety of Zimbabweans.
“Amnesty International further calls upon the African Union (AU) to pay close attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Amnesty International requests that the AU call on Zimbabwe to uphold its human rights obligations under the AU Constitutive Actand the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” reads the report, adding: “Amnesty International further calls upon the African Union (AU) to pay close attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Amnesty International requests that the AU call on Zimbabwe to uphold its human rights obligations under the AU Constitutive Actand the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“The organisation has previously Community (Sadc) to redouble their efforts to ensure the Zimbabwe authorities end human rights violations in the country.”
Findings by the review also showed that the government has ramped up efforts to suppress human rights, with individuals who speak out or organise protests facing persecution, and with family members being targeted and harassed in order to intimidate activists.
“Abductions have also been on the rise, further exacerbating the human rights situation. Although the Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of expression, journalists, opposition party members and critics of the government who speak out on and offline are harassed or arrested for speaking out against human rights violations,” reads the report.
Recently, an opposition supporter, Pastor Tapfumaneyi Masaya was abducted and later found dead with a mutilated body in Mabvuku barely a month after the CCC MP Takudzwa Ngadziore was also abused by gun-toting assailants.
“Activists and political party leaders have been criminalised for exercising their right to dissent. Socio-economic rights continue to be eroded in Zimbabwe with access to healthcare being inadequate, especially for women and girls’ enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights,” reads the Amnesty report.
Amnesty International says the Mnangagwa regime has introduced repressive tools to close the civic space over the past five years, a continuation from Mugabe who in 2002 assented to the now repealed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).
The provisions of Aippa were used by the government to silence dissenting voices, with at least 21 journalists arrested and charged under various provisions of the Act in 2003, a year after its inception.
Mnangagwa has however introduced repressive laws which include: the Cyber and Data Protection Act [Chapter 12:07] (No. 5 of 2021); the Freedom of Information Act, 2020 (which replaces Aippa); and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [Chapter 11:23].
The draconian Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, H.B. 10, 2021 has since lapsed before presidential assent.
“This legislative agenda is not dissimilar to the ‘tools of repression’ introduced by the Mugabe government at the turn of the millennium. Instead, the Zimbabwean government has carried on in the same tradition, using the law as an instrument of oppression and a means of cracking down on human rights,” reads the report.
Mnangagwa has been under fire for violently thwarting the constitutional right to protest, in tactics similar to the Mugabe playbook, according to the review.
For instance, six unarmed citizens were killed by the military in the wake of the 1 August 2018 shootings in which opposition MDC-Alliance supporters were protesting the delay in the release of the 2018 general election results.