Corporate report

Zimbabwe - country of concern: latest update 31 December 2014

Updated 21 January 2015

Any incidents or events taking place after 31 December 2014 will be covered in future reports.

0.1 Latest Update: 31 December 2014

The human rights situation in Zimbabwe between October and December remained stable though fragile. A steady reduction in the number of reported human rights violations continues, with levels of political violence low in comparison to recent years, and no serious deterioration in governance. Despite the intensive political infighting during ZANU-PF’s party Congress (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, Zimbabwe’s ruling party) in December (which, reports state, broke the party’s own constitution) the levels of politically-motivated human rights violations remained relatively low. However, the UK government remains concerned about politically-inspired violence and harassment, repressive legislation and limited media freedom, all of which adversely affect the Zimbabwean people.

During this quarter, Zimbabwe has continued to vote at the UN General Assembly against the abolition of the death penalty. The constitution permits use of the death penalty for persons guilty of murder committed in aggravating circumstances, except for women and anyone aged under 21 or over 70. Although there has been an unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Zimbabwe since 2005, Zimbabwe has yet to take any concrete steps to change their position domestically or internationally, despite the Minister for Justice publicly supporting abolition.

Progress to align legislation with the constitution remains disappointingly slow and limited to less sensitive areas, with little parliamentary time devoted to this in the last quarter. The reform and alignment of such laws with the constitution remains a critical step for Zimbabwe to reform its legal framework. We are also concerned that the government of Zimbabwe has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has virtually no budget to address disabled persons’ rights.

Over the last quarter, we have welcomed some legislative developments. The introduction to Parliament of the Gender Commission Bill is welcome. However, we are aware of concerns by local civil society organisations (CSOs) that the draft bill is not fully aligned with the constitution. CSOs call for the draft bill to be extensively revised and improved upon before it is enacted. We also welcome Zimbabwe’s establishment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) during this period. The NPRC will aim to conciliate and mediate disputes among communities, organisations, groups and individuals. However, the NPRC needs to be fully operationalised to allow it to carry out its mandate.

We are concerned by the continued use of oppression by police to stop legitimate peaceful protests and to limit freedom of expression. In the last quarter, there have been reported incidents of police assaults and arrests of demonstrators in Marondera, Masvingo, Mutare and Harare South. On 6 November, Itai Dzamara, a journalist and human rights activist, was reportedly beaten by police. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer, Kennedy Masiye, was reportedly also assaulted by the police as he attempted to represent Dzamara.

The UK government remains concerned by all forms of harassment, including politically-inspired violence. In October, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) recorded unprecedented levels of hate speech from the media and senior political figures ahead of the elective congresses of ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe’s other main party, the MDC-T (Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai). We are particularly concerned by incidents of reported hate speech used by the First Lady Grace Mugabe. On 6 October, Grace Mugabe was quoted as saying that she would “spill blood” if anyone attempted to remove her from her Mazoe Farm, illegally appropriated from a white commercial farm owner.

We were also concerned by reports on 28 November of the arrest of War Veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, on political grounds, following his comments on the political progress of the First Lady. In addition, we are concerned about reports that the Public Service, Labour and Welfare Minister, Nicholas Goche, had to flee the country on 23 November after he was attacked by ZANU-PF youth supporters, who called for him to address allegations of treason.

We continue to remain concerned by the general lack of respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe, particularly over property rights and security of land tenure. Farm invasions against black- and white-owned properties have continued, as have poorly-managed forced relocations from urban housing deemed to be illegally constructed. Individuals, particularly those with a high profile, remain encouraged to take the law into their own hands. For example, despite a court ruling in June barring senior civil servant Ray Ndhlukula from interfering with the property of farm owner David Connolly, reports in December suggested that Ndhlukula was still attempting to occupy the farm. However, in a welcome development in October a High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, ordered authorities to stop house demolitions in Harare and Epworth that had left many homeless.

In another welcome development, the High Court convicted a ZANU-PF youth activist, Stabliser Kadafi. He is a known perpetrator of political violence from 2008, following the aftermath of the June 2008 presidential run-off election. Kadafi was sentenced to 20 years in jail; the UK government recognises this as a step in the right direction to ending the culture of political violence and impunity in Zimbabwe.

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