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Zimbabwe: Test for African Responsibility

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Aug 14, 2004 (040814)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The Zimbabwean situation of starvation and malnutrition, willful political violence and intimidation, and the immoral use of food aid by the Zimbabwean government demands stronger and transparent intervention by African governments through the AU [African Union]" - Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)

In a statement issued last week, quoted in the press release below, the bishops called for international institutions, including the United Nations, the AU, and the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) to take stronger action on the pressing crises in both Zimbabwe and Sudan.

The two crises differ substantially in their particulars, but both pose formidable challenges to the credibility of African as well as global institutions. It is now widely accepted in principle, as advocated by African and international civil society activists, that responsibility for responding to humanitarian and human rights crises of such magnitude extends beyond the borders of the country involved. The engagement of regional African institutions in peacekeeping and mediation of conflicts has significantly increased in recent years. But to date the records of southern African governments on Zimbabwe, and of the continent's leaders on Sudan, give little sign that effective action will overcome inertia and the tendency to avoid confrontation with regimes responsible for crimes against their own population.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent documents from southern Africa on human rights abuses and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. The web version of this bulletin (http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/zim0408.php) also contains earlier additional background documents of continued relevance, not included in the e-mailed Bulletin for reason of length.

Increasingly, the Zimbabwean government is making it more difficult for international agencies as well as NGOs even to engage in humanitarian operations. A report released by Human Rights Watch on August 13 week focused on government-created obstacles to food aid (http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/12/zimbab9230.htm).

For additional coverage of Zimbabwe from a human rights perspective, see http://www.kubatana.net and
http://www.zimbabwewatch.org. Documents without a website identification below can be found on these sites. Additional background and analysis, including earlier issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin, can be found at
http://www.africafocus.org/country/zimbabwe.php

For background on Sudan, including recent issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin, see http://www.africafocus.org/country/sudan.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Southern Africa: SADC Leaders Under Pressure to Discuss Zimbabwe

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
http://www.irinnews.org

August 12, 2004

Johannesburg

Southern African leaders are under mounting pressure from pro-democracy groups to take action against alleged repression in Zimbabwe ahead of a regional summit in Mauritius next week.

As Zimbabwean NGOs finalise plans to possibly make a submission to Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in Mauritius, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference this week called on the region to "take stronger action, including the consideration of targeted sanctions, to prevent further suffering" in Zimbabwe.

"The Zimbabwean situation of starvation and malnutrition, wilful political violence and intimidation, and the immoral use of food aid by the Zimbabwean government demands stronger and transparent intervention by African governments through the AU [African Union]," the bishops said in a statement.

"With more than three million people displaced as a result of the crisis in Zimbabwe, a generation of exiles and refugees has been created. This situation cannot be allowed to continue - the government of Zimbabwe must care for its own people."

The bishops added that "strong measures must be taken by the international community to ensure a meaningful and honest election in Zimbabwe in 2005, especially through sustained independent international and regional monitoring of the pre-election process as a prerequisite for validating the election itself".

Rights group Amnesty International (AI) said its members in Southern Africa had written to their country's leaders, "calling on them to publicly and jointly condemn the government of Zimbabwe for its violation of human rights".

"The letters denounce a series of grave human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, including: repressive laws that are used to criminalise peaceful gatherings, as well as shut down independent media outlets and NGOs; government moves to end international food aid distribution, despite independent warnings that millions of Zimbabweans will need food aid in the coming year; systematic government attacks on the independence of judges and lawyers; and failure to investigate widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including rape, committed by security forces and 'youth' militia," AI said in a statement on Thursday.

"Evidence suggests that an escalation in repression in Zimbabwe is already underway, ahead of parliamentary elections. We are urging SADC leaders to use this summit to demonstrate their commitment to protect human rights and to hold governments accountable in the SADC region," AI said.

Zimbabwe's Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) Bill, if passed by parliament, will cut off donor funding to local civil society groups involved in governance and human rights issues and give government greater control over their operations.

At the opening of parliament on 20 July, President Robert Mugabe confirmed that a new bill governing the operation of NGOs would be introduced to replace the Private Voluntary Organisations Act. AFP quoted Mugabe as saying that "NGOs must work for the betterment of our country and not against it".

"We cannot allow them to be conduits or instruments of foreign interference in our national affairs," Mugabe reportedly said, adding that the new bill would "ensure the rationalisation of the macro-management of all NGOs".

Brian Kagoro, chief executive of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a group of pro-democracy NGOs, had earlier told IRIN that the proposed NGO bill would make it illegal for civic groups to continue to operate as trusts answerable only to boards of trustees and members.

On Thursday he said local NGOs were still considering whether or not to send representatives to Mauritius with the intention of lobbying SADC leaders, as they believed the NGO bill was contrary to SADC protocols on civil society.

"The real point is the role of civil society. The AU and SADC have defined within several protocols and conventions, even within the context of NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa's Development], a clear role for civil society," he noted.

Kagoro said "suggestions by the Zimbabwe government that civil society must be answerable to government confuses the whole notion of free association, and the right of civil society to act as a supportive and critical element when the government fails [to uphold this]".

Through the NGO bill, the government "is attempting to ... create a civil society that is uncritical; a civil society that acts as a conduit for the legitimisation of the [government's actions] in Zimbabwe," he alleged.

Kagoro claimed the bill would also hamper the ability of NGOs to "monitor the administration of development assistance and humanitarian aid, and to make sure it is not politicised to the benefit of any party, especially the ruling party. That there is an attempt [through] the bill to proscribe and severely limit the role of civil society speaks volumes of the extent to which they [government] intend to control the forthcoming elections".

[Extended analyses of the bill by Kagoro and others are available on http://www.kubatana.net.]


Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference

Catholic Bishops Urge the International Community to Take Stronger Action on Zimbabwe and Sudan

Media Statement
Wednesday 11 August 2004

"The Catholic bishops decry the ongoing human suffering of their brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe and Sudan, and call on Southern African Development Community Governments (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) to take stronger action, including the consideration of targetted sanctions, to prevent further suffering." This statement was made at the conclusion of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) plenary session at Mariannhill today.

ZIMBABWE

"The Zimbabwean situation of starvation and malnutrition, willful political violence and intimidation, and the immoral use of food aid by the Zimbabwean government demands stronger and transparent intervention by African governments through the AU", said the bishops. "With more than three million people displaced as a result of the crisis in Zimbabwe, a generation of exiles and refugees has been created. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Government of Zimbabwe must care for its own people."

"In addition, strong measures must be taken by the international community to ensure a meaningful and honest election in Zimbabwe in 2005, especially through sustained independent international and regional monitoring of the pre-election process as a prerequisite for validating the election itself."

SUDAN

The bishops continued: "In Sudan, while tens of thousands have been killed and more than a million displaced in the Darfur region, thousands in other parts of Sudan, such as the Malakal district, silently face equally devastating violence at the hands of militias actively supported by the Khartoum government. The UN investigation team issued a report on 6 August, 2004, stating that it cannot be doubted that the Government of Sudan is 'responsible' for what has happened in Darfur. We ourselves have personally witnessed some of these atrocities during visits to Sudan."

Because of this, the African Union (AU) in particular must take action against the Government of Sudan and exclude it from all AU organs such as its Human Rights Commission. In addition, to put pressure on the Government of Sudan to implement the African Union provisions on good governance and the promotion of human rights."

In conclusion, the bishops reflected: "With war on terrorism on the increase, there is a continuing erosion of a culture of human rights in the world today. We call on all church members and people of good will to work together to bring an end to wars and divisions, to promote healing and reconciliation, to challenge political leadership to transparent and accountable governance, and to build communities and nations where people may live in dignity and experience a true quality of life."

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to engaging with Zimbabwean, Sudanese and other African church and political leaders to ensure a lasting end to Africa's conflicts. To this end, the Conference is establishing an international solidarity and peace institute to support its efforts in this regard.

For further information,

Please contact Bishop Kevin Dowling (Vice-chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Department) at 014 5733403 (telephone and fax) or 083 6550457 or at: diocrust@mweb.co.za; and Neville Gabriel (Co-ordinating Secretary of the SACBC Justice and Peace Department at 012 323 6458.


Amnesty International South Africa

Open Letter to His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa

25th June 2004

Dear Mr. President,

We, the undersigned, wish to express to you our grave concern about the ongoing and unrelenting nature of the crisis in Zimbabwe. We believe that African states, including South Africa, need to intensify efforts to publicly signal to the Zimbabwean government that the violation of human rights is unacceptable. Through the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), in which South Africa plays such a vital role, African Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to take effective and concrete measures to uphold the rule of law and promote principles of human rights and accountability. The disparity between the principles enshrined in both NEPAD and the Vision and Mission of the African Union, and the reality of the situation in Zimbabwe, as experienced by millions of Zimbabweans, is conspicuous.

Despite repeated appeals to the Zimbabwean government from organisations and activists inside and outside Zimbabwe, including many of the undersigned, there has been no improvement; on the contrary, the situation continues to deteriorate. Those in Zimbabwe who speak out are silenced, through the use of repressive legislation, intimidation and violence.

Freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly are vital to the existence of a democratic society, and indispensable for the formation of public opinion. In the last three years the Government of Zimbabwe has introduced a range of legislation which undermines the basic freedoms of expression, association and assembly; rights guaranteed to all under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. This legislation includes the Public Order and Security Act (2002) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (2002).

Hundreds of civil society activists have been arrested under the Public Order and Security Act, which effectively criminalises peaceful gatherings. Many of those arrested have subsequently been subjected to threats, torture and other forms of illtreatment. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has been used to detain and arrest scores of independent journalists, and to shut down Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has described Zimbabwe as one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist.

Systems for state accountability have been seriously undermined, through both political manipulation of the security services, and attacks on the judiciary and the courts. The police, apparently under political instructions, fail to arrest and investigate those who commit human rights violations, and have themselves been implicated in acts of intimidation and violence. Since 2001 the government has established youth "militia" groups. Allegations of torture and assault, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, committed by "militias" as groups or individuals have been widely reported. The "militias" appear to operate without interference.

An independent judiciary is vital to enforcing the law and ensuring accountability. However, in Zimbabwe court orders are frequently ignored. Judges and lawyers have been subjected to harassment and assault, and several independent judges have resigned or retired as a consequence. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has repeatedly expressed very grave concerns over the deterioration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, and what he has described as "systematic attacks on the independence of judges and lawyers by the Government and its agencies".

Since 2002 millions of Zimbabweans have faced serious food shortages. But the suffering of hungry Zimbabweans appears to have been exploited for political gain: discrimination in access to food aid and Government-controlled grain supplies, based on political affiliation, has been widely reported. In elaborating the Vision of the African Union and Mission of the African Union Commission, African Heads of State and Government prioritized the realization of human and peoples' social, economic, civil, cultural and political rights, and made a commitment to assist member states to realize these rights. We are therefore urging African states to take a more public stand in resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe.

We are particularly calling on South Africa, as the country which has assumed specific responsibility, within NEPAD, for good political governance, peace, security and democracy, to encourage the Zimbabwean authorities to take concrete steps to end human rights violations. These steps must include: the repeal or amendment of all legislation which violates internationally recognized rights; an immediate commitment to restore systems for state accountability; the impartial investigation of all allegations of human rights violations, leading to those responsible being brought to justice; a public commitment to ensuring the right of all Zimbabweans to food, including transparent and impartial distribution of all state-controlled food supplies.

Yours sincerely,

Amnesty International South Africa

Supported by:

The Amani Trust; Amnesty International Zimbabwe; Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Zimbabwe); Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation; CIVICUS; Coalition for Peace in Africa; Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe; Human Rights Institute of South Africa; Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa; Legal Resources Foundation; Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe; Non-violent Action and Strategies for Social Change; Transparency International (Zimbabwe); University of Zimbabwe Legal Aid and Advice Scheme; Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender; Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights; Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust; Zimbabwe Human Rights Association; Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; Zimbabwe Peace Project; Zimbabwe Watch; Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association


Executive Summary of the Report of the Fact-finding Mission to Zimbabwe

24th to 28th June 2002

African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (African Commission)

Date published unknown

[Note: This report from 2002 was introduced at the African Union summit last month. African leaders adopted the document, but publication of the full 114-page report was reportedly delayed pending an official response by the government of Zimbabwe ]

Executive Summary

Introduction

Following widespread reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (African Commission) at its 29th Ordinary Session held in Tripoli from 23rd April to 7th may 2001 decided to undertake a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Zimbabwe from 24th to 28th June 2002.

The state purpose of the Mission was to gather information on the state of human rights in Zimbabwe. In order to do so, the Mission sought to meet with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, law-enforcement agencies, the judiciary, political parties and with organised civil society organisations especially those engaged in human rights advocacy. The method of the fact-finding team was to listen and observe the situation in the country from various angles, listen to statements and testimony of the many actors in the country and conduct dialogue with the government and other public agencies.

Findings

  • The Mission observed that Zimbabwean society is highly polarized. It is a divided society with deeply entrenched positions. The land question is not in itself the cause of division. It appears that at heart is a society in search of the means for change and divided about how best to achieve change after two decades of dominance by a political party that carried the hopes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe through the liberation struggle into independence.

  • There is no doubt that from the perspective of the fact-finding team, the land question is critical and that Zimbabweans, sooner or later, needed to address it. The team has consistently maintained that from a human rights perspective, land reform has to be the prerogative of the government of Zimbabwe. The Mission noted that Article 14 of the African Charter states "The right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws". It appears to the Mission that the Government of Zimbabwe has managed to bring this policy matter under the legal and constitutional system of the country. It now means that land reform and land distribution can now take place in a lawful and orderly fashion.

  • There was enough evidence placed before the Mission to suggest that, at the very least during the period under review, human rights violations occurred in Zimbabwe. The Mission was presented with testimony from witnesses who were victims of political violence and others victims of torture while in police custody. There was evidence that the system of arbitrary arrests took place. Especially alarming was the arrest of the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and journalists including Peta Thorncroft, Geoffrey Nyarota, among many others, the arrests and torture of opposition members of parliament and human rights lawyers like Gabriel Shumba.

  • There were allegations that the human rights violations that occurred were in many instances at the hands of ZANU PF party activists. The Mission is however not able to find definitively that this was part of an orchestrated policy of the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. There were enough assurances from the Head of State, Cabinet Ministers and the leadership of the ruling party that there has never been any plan or policy of violence, disruption or any form of human rights violations, orchestrated by the State. There was also an acknowledgement that excesses did occur.

  • The Mission is prepared and able to rule, that the Government cannot wash its hands from responsibility for all these happenings. It is evident that a highly charged atmosphere has been prevailing, many land activists undertook their illegal actions in the expectation that government was understanding and that police would not act against them - many of them, the War Veterans, purported to act as party veterans and activists. Some of the political leaders denounced the opposition activists and expressed understanding for some of the actions of ZANU PF loyalists. Government did not act soon enough and firmly enough against those guilty of gross criminal acts. By its statements and political rhetoric, and by its failure at critical moments to uphold the rule of law, the government failed to chart a path that signalled a commitment to the rule of law.

  • There has been a flurry of new legislation and the revival of the old laws used under the Smith Rhodesian regime to control, manipulate public opinion and that limited civil liberties. Among these, the Mission?s attention was drawn to the Public Order and Security Act, 2002 and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2002. These have been used to require registration of journalists and for prosecution of journalists for publishing "false information". All of these, of course, would have a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression and introduce a cloud of fear in media circles. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act has been revived to legislate for the registration of NGOs and for the disclosure of their activities and funding sources.

  • There is no institution in Zimbabwe, except the Office of the Attorney General, entrusted with the responsibility of oversight over unlawful actions of the police, or to receive complaints against the police. The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent institution whose mandate was recently extended to include human rights protection and promotion. It was evident to the Mission that the office was inadequately provided for such a task and that the prevailing mindset especially of the Ombudsman herself was not one which engendered the confidence of the public. The Office was only about the time we visited, publishing an annual report five years after it was due. The Ombudsman claimed that her office had not received any reports of human rights violations. That did not surprise the Mission seeing that in her press statement following our visit, and without undertaking any investigations into allegations levelled against them, the Ombudsman was defensive of allegations against the youth militia. If the Office of the Ombudsman is to serve effectively as an office that carries the trust of the public, it will have to be independent and the Ombudsman will have to earn the trust of the public. Its mandate will have to be extended, its independence guaranteed and accountability structures defined.

  • The Mission was privileged to meet with the Chief Justice and the President of the High Court. The Mission Team also met with the Attorney General and Senior Officers in his office. The Mission was struck by the observation that the judiciary had been tainted and even under the new dispensation bears the distrust that comes from the prevailing political conditions. The Mission was pleased to note that the Chief Justice was conscious of the responsibility to rebuild public trust. In that regard, he advised that a code of conduct for the judiciary was under consideration. The Office of the Attorney General has an important role to play in the defence and protection of human rights. In order to discharge that task effectively, the Office of the Attorney General must be able to enforce its orders and that the orders of the courts must be obeyed by the police and ultimately that the profession judgement of the Attorney General must be respected.

  • The Mission noted with appreciation the dynamic and diverse civil society formations in Zimbabwe. Civil society is very engaged in the developmental issues in society and enjoys a critical relationship with government. The Mission sincerely believes that civil society is essential for the upholding of a responsible society and for holding government accountable. A healthy though critical relationship between government and civil society is essential for good governance and democracy.
.

Recommendations

In the light of the above findings, the African Commission offers the following recommendations -:

  • On National Dialogue and Reconciliation

    Further to the observations about the breakdown in trust between government and some civil society organisations especially those engaged in human rights advocacy, and noting the fact that Zimbabwe is a divided society, and noting further, however, that there is insignificant fundamental policy difference in relation to issues like land and national identity, Zimbabwe needs assistance to withdraw from the precipice. The country is in need of mediators and reconcilers who are dedicated to promoting dialogue and better understanding. Religious organisations are best placed to serve this function and the media needs to be freed from the shackles of control to voice opinions and reflect societal beliefs freely.

  • Creating an Environment Conducive to Democracy and Human Rights

    The African Commission believes that as a mark of goodwill, government should abide by the judgements of the Supreme Court and repeal sections of the Access to Information Act calculated to freeze the free expression of public opinion. The Public Order Act must also be reviewed. Legislation that inhibits public participation by NGOs in public education, human rights counselling must be reviewed. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act should be repealed.

  • Independent National Institutions

    Government is urged to establish independent and credible national institutions that monitor and prevent human rights violations, corruptions and maladministration. The Office of the Ombudsman should be reviewed and legislation which accords it the powers envisaged by the Paris Principles adopted. An independent office to receive and investigate complaints against the police should be considered unless the Ombudsman is given additional powers to investigate complaints against the police. Also important is an Independent Electoral Commission. Suspicions are rife that the Electoral Supervisory Commission has been severely compromised. Legislation granting it greater autonomy would add to its prestige and generate public confidence.

  • The Independence of the Judiciary

    The judiciary has been under pressure in recent times. It appears that their conditions of service do not protect them from political pressure; appointments to the bench could be done in such a way that they could be insulated from the stigma of political patronage. Security at Magistrates? and High Court should ensure the protection of presiding officers. The independence of the judiciary should be assured in practice and judicial orders must be obeyed. Government and the media have a responsibility to ensure the high regards and esteem due to members of the judiciary by refraining from political attacks or the use of inciting language against magistrates and judges. A Code of Conduct for Judges could be adopted and administered by the judges themselves. The African Commission commends to the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe for serious consideration and application of the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa adopted by the African Commission at its 33rd Ordinary Session in Niamey, Niger in May 2003.

  • A Professional Police Service

    Every effort must be made to avoid any further politicisation of the police service. The police service must attract all Zimbabweans from whatever political persuasion or none to give service to the country with pride. The police should never be at the service of any political party but must at all times seek to abide by the values of the Constitution and enforce the law without fear or favour. Recruitment to the service, conditions of service and in-service training must ensure the highest standards of professionalism in the service. Equally, there should be an independent mechanism for receiving complaints about police conduct. Activities of units within the ZRP like the law and order unit which seems to operate under political instructions and without accountability to the ZRP command structures should be disbanded.

    There were also reports that elements of the CIO were engaged in activities contrary to the international practice of intelligence organisations. These should be brought under control. The activities of the youth militia trained in the youth camps have been brought to our attention. Reports suggest that these youth serve as party militia engaged in political violence, The African Commission proposes that these youth camps be closed down and training centres be established under the ordinary education and employment system of the country. The Africa Commission commends for study and implementation the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (otherwise know as the Robben Island Guidelines) adopted by the African Commission at its 32nd Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia in October 2002.

  • The Media

    A robust and critical media is essential for democracy. The government has expressed outrage at some unethical practices by journalists, and the Access to Information Act was passed in order to deal with some of these practices. The Media and Ethics Commission that has been established could do a great deal to advance journalistic practices, and assist with the professionalisation of media practitioners. The Media and Ethics Commission suffers from the mistrust on the part of those with whom it is intended to work. The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists could have a consultative status in the Media and Ethics Commission. Efforts should be made to create a climate conducive to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. The POSA and Access to Information Act should be amended to meet international standards for freedom of expression. Any legislation that requires registration of journalists, or any mechanism that regulates access to broadcast media by an authority that is not independent and accountable to the public, creates a system of control and political patronage. The Africa Commission commends the consideration and applications of the Declaration on The Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission in Banjul, October 2002.

  • Reporting Obligations to the African Commission

    The African Commission notes that the Republic of Zimbabwe now has three overdue reports in order to fulfil its obligations in terms of Article 62 of the Africa Charter. Article 1 of the Africa Charter states that State Parties to the Charter shall "recognise the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in the Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them." Article 62 of the Africa Charter provides that each State Party shall undertake to submit every two years "a report on the legislative or other measures taken, with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter." The African Commission therefore reminds the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe of this obligation and urges the government to take urgent steps to meet its reporting obligations. More pertinently, the African Commission hereby invites the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to report on the extent to which these recommendations have been considered and implemented.


Zimbabwe Watch

c/o NIZA, Prins Hendrikkade 33, 1001 ES Amsterdam, Netherlands Email: ZimWatch@niza.nl

26 February 2004

Notes on Zimbabwe late February 2004

From a correspondent in Zimbabwe

1. At about one year before the proposed general parliamentary elections for Zimbabwe, there is a qualitative change in the situation caused by the use of Presidential Powers (essentially Emergency Powers) to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The effect of the amendment is to allow the police to detain suspects - of any alleged crime that affects the security of well-being of the State - to be arrested and detained for up to 30 days, and specifically prevents recourse to the courts to review such detention or to grant bail.

This new procedural provision removes in a formal way much of the actions of the police and the detention process from the supervision of the courts. While the manipulation of the courts has been significant and problematic, there has nonetheless remained a degree of professionalism in the application of the law (such as it is) by magistrates and judges. Now this (limited) protection of rights such as to due process appears to have been removed.

2. One year before the election dates, it is very apparent that the majority of requirements for a free and fair electoral campaign and transparent election process are absent.

  • The independent media is under continual harassment and attack, and recently the Daily News was closed down by a decision of the Supreme Court, which approved as constitutional the contentious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Other independent media publications are fearing state intervention against them. It should be remembered that the electronic media, both radio and television, is entirely monopolised by the State, and is run under close control by the Minister of State for Information's department.
  • The space for public organising and protest is extremely limited, and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) is applied with vigour, but of course in a partisan manner. Recent examples of its application were the brutal breaking up of a public demonstration for constitutional government, and serious assaults perpetrated on leaders of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in early February; and the prevention of a Valentine's Day march (14 February) with the distribution of roses, organised by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), at which threats to shoot the marchers were made by police officers. Meanwhile the government sponsored Youth Militias (called Green Bombers) appear to operate with impunity.
  • The Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC)(responsible for the running of the elections) and the Registrar General's office (responsible for the compiling and management of the electoral roll) remain firmly controlled by the political leadership of the Ministries of Justice and Home Affairs. Particularly worrying is the appointment of military officers in the ESC. The Registrar General's office is the object of numerous long-drawn out court cases, in particular relating to that office's refusal to release voter's rolls to opposition parties before the dates of elections.

3. Economically, the crisis of production and livelihood continues. The country has seen a systematic process of de-professionalisation and de-capitalisation. While it has been estimated that 99% of the population live with an income less than the poverty datum line, it is clear that factors such as the remittances from family members living outside Zimbabwe mitigate low incomes for at least a proportion of the population. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 % of Zimbabwe's 'normal' population are living outside the country at present, mostly as economic refugees (ie between 2 and 3 million persons); and it should be noted that there are at least 500 000 internally displaced people, principally former farm-workers. A very significant proportion of professionals, such as doctors, engineers, educationalists and financial managers have sought employment elsewhere. National savings have been swallowed by government for recurrent expenditures, in particular on inflated security and military sectors. The invasion of farms and the attacks on property rights (with the use of questionable legal provisions and the operations of extra-legal activities such as the occupation of farms and the threats and harassment of businesses) has made Zimbabwe a very poor prospect for financial investment. The farming sector is in deep crisis with food production stunted, the national herd decimated, cash-earning crops extremely limited. Corruption and illegal transactions have further undermined the capital base of the country.

4. Politically, it appears that the ruling party Zanu PF is extremely confident of its hold on power. The recent arrests of leading business personalities from the ruling party is an indication that the leadership around Mugabe has agreed that no discussion of succession in the party will take place until the end of Mugabe's presidential term, in 2008; and thus actual or potential supporters of the only proponent of succession, the Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, are being harassed and targeted. This 'purification' of the party is being accompanied by an increasing militarisation; new appointments of Ministers, Governors and government institutional leadership (eg Agribank) have included senior military figures, and the new army commander Constantine Chiwenga has directly intervened in public policy issues, most recently during a doctor's strike. Following the ZANU Conference in December 2003 it was said that 'the High Command is back in charge' ie the High command of the liberation forces of the 1970s.

ZANU-PF is acting as though it feels that it has crushed the MDC and so can deal with internal problems. [It is said that Mugabe is prepared to negotiate with anyone, once he has crushed him]. The MDC has been attacked in many ways; the serious but farcical trial of Morgan Tsvangirai has removed him from international view; many MDC members of parliament have been harassed and assaulted, and some are outside the country, others have died; the closing of the Daily News has shut down one of the few means that the MDC had of communicating with a mass public; the urban centres with MDC elected mayors have had centrally appointed governors appointed to oversee (and interfere with) them. It is clear that the MDC has not managed to organise itself strongly in the face of continuous assault: what is remarkable is that it survives at all. In a recent rural bye-election, the MDC obtained more than 7000 votes against the purported vote for the ZANU-PF candidate of more than 20 000... It is also clear that the MDC has not been able to mobilise mass support for public actions, but this comes from a variety of factors, including the intense fear and sense of intimidation that people have, as well as the culturally deep-seated tradition of respect for established authority.

5. National civil society remains weak and limited in its impact on the national situation. The Trade Union movement, while able to hold its own in the labour sector negotiations process, has been unable to mobilise mass support for national policy goals, and its leadership has been arrested several times recently as national protests have been planned. Civil society groups such as the Crisis Coalition and the National Constitutional Assembly continue to carry out small-scale lobbying and information processes, and even some of these are closed under the POSA regulations. Churches are involved in some mediation efforts, but it is very clear that the ruling party ZANU-PF is not seriously interested in dialogue, let alone negotiations.

6. Internationally, the majority of African governments and leadership have 'bought' the ZANU- PF line on the situation in Zimbabwe. While the EU and the US must continue to pressure the ruling elite in Zimbabwe, it is critical that this pressure also and increasingly comes from countries of the South; especially from Africa and in particular from South Africa.

7. The debate on whether free and fair elections can be held or not is critical, for the coming months. It is increasingly apparent that some form of transitional administration, with international (UN, AU, SADC) support, will be needed to create the conditions for the Zimbabwean people to re-take control of their destinies without fear, threats and imposition. The key question thus is, how can such a transitional arrangement be brought about?

8. In the absence of that transition one may see the apparent provision of a level playing field, but one on which only the players from one side are permitted access, and where spectators are expressly forbidden, and where the referee is the coach of the side allowed on the field. There is the rule of law, distorted; the operations of media, very limited; the holding of elections, under many forms of duress; freedoms of belief and assembly - if your beliefs do not call into question the ruling elite; rights of property - with partisan definition.

Shona stone sculpture has long been recognised as a contribution of the Zimbabwean artistic fraternity to the canon of world creative endeavour. Recently seeing a hard-set face, a human head in stone by Henry Munyaradzi, I felt that the symbolism needs to be carried further - to indicate the stony faces, and the stone-heartedness of so much of the ruling elite.

Its greatest weakness is that it does not allow for human generosity.


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