Human Rights Watch (HRW) has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to say how he intends to facilitate security, media and electoral reforms to ensure this year’s elections are credible.
By VENERANDA LANGA
In its 2018 Human Rights Watch report, the human rights body said Mnangagwa, who took over after the military ousted former president Robert Mugabe in November last year, had his own long record of rights violations.
“During the military takeover between November 14 and 24, the army arrested and detained a number of former president Robert Mugabe’s associates without providing information about the arrest, or places and conditions of detention,” the 2018 report read.
“In his inaugural speech on November 24, Mnangagwa confirmed that elections would take place as scheduled, by August 2018, but did not address the issue of meaningful security sector, media, and electoral reforms to ensure credible, free, and fair elections.”
HRW said Mnangagwa’s administration had also failed to ensure the independence and enhance the professionalism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) so that it could come up with a credible voters’ roll.
It said the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 1 Act, whose amendments were brought before Parliament by Mnangagwa, further eroded the independence of the judiciary.
“In July, the Parliament passed a constitutional amendment granting the president powers to directly appoint senior members of the judiciary, further eroding the independence of the judiciary.”
The report also looked at other human rights infractions that affected the country in 2017 where police were fingered in issues to do with use of excessive force to quash dissent from human rights defenders, civic society activists, journalists and other government opponents who were threatened or arrested.
“Authorities have not fully investigated the March 9 2015 abduction and enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Itai Dzamara. Dzamara remained missing at the time of writing,” the report said.
Some of the rights activists arrested included #ThisFlag Pastor Evan Mawarire, and journalists Obey Manayiti (NewsDay), Shepherd Tozvireva (The Standard), Abigail Matsikidze and driver Raphael Phiri for allegedly taking photographs of the police beating protesters in Harare, and freelance journalists Garikai Chaunza and Frank Chikowore who were investigating forced evictions at a Rusape farm.
“In June, Harare police summoned and interrogated NewsDay editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and reporter Everson Mushava over a story they published about alleged Zanu PF party infighting.”
The HRW report criticised state media, whose news reports they said remain partisan in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party while limiting coverage of opposition parties.
“The government has not repealed or amended the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and other laws that severely restrict basic rights and infringe on freedom of expression.”
On the rights of women and girls, the HRW 2018 report said government is yet to amend or repeal all existing marriage laws that still allow child marriages.
“Widows in Zimbabwe are routinely evicted from their homes and land, and their property is stolen by in-laws when their husbands die. The government has yet to raise awareness, review inheritance and marriage laws, and improve access to justice for women.
Section 73 of the Criminal Law Act punishes consensual same-sex conduct between men with up to one year in prison or a fine or both,” the 2018 HRW report said.
Zimbabwe was also criticised for failing to align several laws to be in line with the 2013 Constitution.