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Prisoner holding metal cage in jail no freedom concept


Zimbabwe human rights record still in shambles



ZIMBABWE is still lagging behind in straightening its human rights record, with a new report by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour showing a significant increase in corruption and human rights abuses.


These include extrajudicial killings and life-threatening prison conditions.

The country has been struggling to clear its human rights record to attract foreign direct investment, amid a deteriorating socio-economic situation.

According to the report titled, 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Zimbabwe, the government has done little to address corruption, with indications of petty and grand corruption.

Petty corruption is the everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- to mid-level public officials such as by police and local officials and an abuse of high-level power by political elites.

The report says while the country has specialised anti-corruption courts in all 10 provinces, challenges, there have been perceptions of political interference, delays in concluding high-profile cases, and a low quality of investigations.

“In the case of government officials, experts described the problem as ‘catch and release,’ where the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) arrested some corrupt officials but did not secure convictions through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which was responsible for referring all cases to the anti-corruption courts,” it reads.

“The constitution mandated that Zacc conduct corruption investigations. According to its annual report, ZACC assessed a total of 684 complaints of suspected corruption cases in 2022, reflecting a 38 percent decrease from 2021. While Zacc had the power to arrest, it did not have the power to prosecute.”

The report has also flagged the government’s failure to investigate grand corruption cases, for instance, Al Jazeera’s four-part investigation titled ‘Gold Mafia’ which showed the involvement of high-ranking officials in smuggling gold and money laundering.

The hard-hitting documentary exposes how well-connected political elites have been smuggling the country’s gold, while laundering money through South African and United Arab Emirates (UAE) banks.

The racket also included several people, all of them linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, including Ambassador-at-Large Uebert Angel and Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, among others.


The report has also flagged Zimbabwe’s prisons, as harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, lack of water, lice infestations, shortage of blankets in the cold season, physical mistreatment of prisoners, and lack of access to personal hygiene products, as well as inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

“Conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centres were harsh,” it says. “NGOs reported most prisons were overcrowded due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.”

According to a December 2022 parliamentary report, Harare Remand Prison, with a capacity of 900 inmates, was housing nearly 1 500 inmates and Bindura Prison, with a capacity of 20, was housing 87 inmates.

“In August, Al Jazeera reported that former inmates of the Harare Remand facility claimed they witnessed or suffered violence at the hands of prison guards, with one stating, ‘Not a day went by without someone getting beaten up for no apparent reason. It was the order of the day’,” it reads.

According to the report, several dozen children younger than the age of four living with their incarcerated mothers shared their mothers’ food allocation, rather than receiving their own.


The report has also flagged the Zimbabwean government for failing to investigate illegal and politically motivated killings.

For instance, on 15 September, Persuade Mandara was reportedly killed in Mashonaland Central province by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

According to the Human Rights NGO Forum, officers investigating his connection with a grain theft case broke into Mandara’s home, assaulted him with burning logs that were being used for cooking, and fired gunshots.

The officers took the severely injured Mandara to the police station, and he died in their custody.

On 11 November, opposition CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya was also abducted and killed while he was campaigning for Munyaradzi Hafakutizwi in Harare’s Mabvuku constituency.

Kufahakutizwi, who had won the parliamentary seat in the August 2023 general elections was controversially recalled, together with other legislators by self-proclaimed CCC secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.

Masaya was found dead three days later. The police claimed they were investigating the incident.

Retribution against human rights defenders

According to the report, the government harassed NGOs and specific persons it believed would expose abuses by government personnel or oppose government policies.

“NGOs reported surveillance missions by unidentified individuals visiting and occasionally raiding NGO offices,” it reads. “According to many human rights NGOs, the state viewed governance, human rights, and media NGOs as regime-change agents supported by the West. Human rights lawyers were also targeted.”

On 4 September, Doug Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were arrested while representing two CCC members recovering in a hospital from abduction and torture by unknown actors.

Government-controlled media as well as government-associated social media handles disparaged and attacked human rights groups, especially those believed to be funded by Western embassies or governments.

“The government did not take credible steps to identify, investigate, or prosecute officials who may have committed human rights abuses,” it reads.

“There were credible reports of human rights abuses by criminal gangs in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Authorities did not systematically investigate or prosecute such abuses.”


Human rights abuses have also been flagged to have increased during the electoral period.
For instance, the report has indicated how Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), a group linked to the Central Intelligence Organisation, intimidated voters, particularly in rural areas.

“The group was reported to have deployed to approximately 36 000 villages. Faz set up ‘exit polls’ outside of many polling stations where staff requested voters’ names and ID numbers,” it says.

“Community organisations reported Faz intimidated residents to vote in a particular manner and warned that it would be easy to determine who voted against certain parties.”

“The ZRP also conducted raids on members of the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) for allegedly planning ‘to illegally announce’ election results. The ZRP also confiscated computers and laptops and visited the homes of two local observers.”

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