Thursday, February 11, 2010

The polarised lives of Zimbabwe's rich and poor

Thursday marks the first anniversary of Zimbabwe's so-called "inclusive government".

Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe

It is a year since Zimbabwe's former political rivals struck a deal

It has been a year since President Robert Mugabe swore in his former political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, as Prime Minister and the two agreed to a series of conditions enshrined in the Global Political Agreement and to work on a new constitution which would pave the way to free and fair elections.

So what has been achieved?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zimbabwe: Abuse of Human Rights Continues Under Unity Government



10 February 2010

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Zimbabwe's President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai to fulfil their promise to reform state institutions, in a bid to end human rights violations that have continued in the country since the formation of the unity government one year ago.

Torture, harassment and politically motivated prosecutions of human rights defenders and perceived opponents have persisted, while villagers in parts of Zimbabwe have suffered ceaseless intimidation by supporters of former ruling party ZANU-PF.

"The Attorney General's office, police and army have been left to freely violate human rights in pursuit of a political agenda," said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International's Africa programme.

"By delaying reform, the situation in Zimbabwe remains fragile as perpetrators continue to escape justice and are instead effectively given the all clear to continue violating human rights."

Amnesty International called on the unity government to end on-going harassment of human rights defenders. Several peaceful protests organized by civic movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were violently broken up by police in 2009.

Seventeen human rights and political activists who were abducted by state security agents in 2008 continue to face charges that are widely believed to be trumped up. One of them, Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, had her prosecution permanently stayed by the Supreme Court in September 2009 because of overwhelming evidence that she had been tortured.

"The government must end the incessant harassment of human rights activists and take steps to seriously protect rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly," said Erwin van der Borght.

The Zimbabwean army and intelligence services, as well as the Attorney General's office, have remained under ZANU-PF control, following an agreement brokered by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in 2008. The police are co-chaired by ZANU-PF and MDC-T ministers.

"The onus is on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to ensure that key institutions under their control are reformed to end the culture of impunity that still threatens stability in the country," said Erwin van der Borght.

Amnesty International's call for reform comes amid reports that villagers in parts of Zimbabwe are being threatened with violence by army backed supporters of ZANU-PF, in an attempt to force them to endorse the heavily criticized Kariba draft constitution.

The Kariba draft constitution, agreed by unity government parties in September 2007, has been strongly criticized by some civil society organizations as an attempt by the parties to impose a constitution without consultation.

Villagers in Mutoko, Muzarabani and MT Darwin are reportedly being warned that they will face beatings unless they support the ZANU-PF position. Similar threats were made and materialized in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential elections.

"These are early warning signs that the situation could deteriorate if no urgent measures are taken to stop state security agents from carrying out violent political campaigns," said Erwin van der Borght.

"Past involvement on their part has resulted in gross human rights violations, including deaths and torture of perceived opponents."

The government has so far failed to investigate gross human rights violations allegedly carried out by security forces during the run-up to the second round of the 2008 presidential elections, which left at least 200 people dead, over 9,000 injured and tens of thousands displaced.

"The unity government must investigate past and present allegations of human rights violations by state security agents, including torture and ill treatment of detainees," said Erwin van der Borght.

Gross human rights violations have also been taking place within the army.

At least two soldiers were tortured to death in October 2009 while being interrogated by intelligence and military police officials in Harare. Another soldier was reported to have committed suicide while in solitary confinement and several others are still receiving medical treatment for injuries caused by torture.

The victims had been arrested along with at least 95 others, on suspicion of breaking into an armoury at Pomona barracks and stealing 21 guns.

"Zimbabwean state bodies are riddled with human rights abusers that in many cases carry out violations with impunity," said Erwin van der Borght.

"Without genuine reform of institutions this abuse is very likely to persist."

OHCHR and AU Commission strengthen cooperation for human rights in Africa

The UN Human Rights office and the African Union Commission confirmed their longstanding cooperation to promote and protect human rights in Africa by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The agreement, signed during the 14th African Union Summit, provides for technical assistance, training, capacity building and mutual cooperation in the field of human rights.

The African Union 14th Summit concluded on 2 February..- African UnionUN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay and the Chairman of the African Union Commission Jean Ping signed the MOU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which hosts the African Union Commission (AUC), OHCHR’s presence in East Africa as well as the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), regional arm the United Nations.

During the signing ceremony, Pillay reminded attendees that the partnership between the AU and OHCHR was guided by a general framework for cooperation set by resolutions of the General Assembly, decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union and ECA, as well as treaties and other legal instruments signed between the then Organisation of African Unity and the UN.

For several years, the UN Human Rights office has been working hand-in-hand with the AUC and the African Union’s human rights bodies. In Addis Ababa, OHCHR and the AU co-chair the Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation Sub-cluster which considers key policy and thematic human rights issues on the continent. The Office also assists each year with technical expertise and support to the sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The new agreement represents “a firmer, clearer and more specific framework for a better and more focused cooperation between our two organizations in the field of human rights”, said the High Commissioner. She also said she was confident that within the context of the UN-AU Ten Year Capacity-Building Programme, the MOU will be pivotal in strengthening the work of human rights actors on the continent.

Strengthened institutional cooperation on a range of human rights issues, as envisaged by the new MOU, should benefit human rights protection and promotion in Africa. High Commissioner Pillay reiterated her Office’s commitment to further assist the AUC including through the joint development of a comprehensive human rights strategy for Africa.

“Prompt adaptability together with robust and decisive action and inspired leadership are key to the effective implementation of human rights and in reaching out to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged”, she added.

8 February 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

Zimbabwe stalemate persists

JASON MOYO - Feb 05 2010 06:00

One year of Zimbabwe's unity government and the parties are still nowhere near unified. Jason Moyo reports

Just one week before its first anniversary and Zimbabwe's unity government is on the rocks again. Zanu-PF has refused to agree to any further reforms until the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) calls for an end to sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, which prompted the MDC to challenge the president to end the partnership and call for an election.

Zanu-PF's position has been hardening steadily since its December congress, when a more radical wing of the party gained a foothold and began pushing for a harder stance against reform. The chorus of criticism rose after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is the leader of the MDC, told media in Davos, Switzerland, this week that only "some" of the sanctions must be lifted.

Tsvangirai has resisted pressure from Mugabe, campaigning instead only for the removal of sanctions on state enterprises, some of which his ministers control. The MDC also wants an end to an embargo on lending from the International Monetary Fund and other Western institutions, but lenders say Zimbabwe can access fresh credit only once it clears its debt of close to US$6-billion.

United States legislation enacted in 2001 bans financial support to Zimbabwe, but hopes have been raised after Washington's ambassador in Harare indicated a possible softening of his country's stance.

Zanu-PF is not too concerned about the removal of Western restrictions on the economy. Mugabe and his inner circle are said to be more worried about the personal measures that have kept them away from Western capitals and seen some of their children thrown out of foreign universities.

Comments by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband that his country would "be guided" by the MDC in deciding on sanctions have been fodder for Zanu-PF, which has always accused Tsvangirai of calling for the embargo in the first place.

This week Tsvangirai sought to play down the tension, saying he would continue in government with Mugabe. "I have taken a decision that we can work together, despite this acrimony, for the good of the country," he said.

But there was a tougher reaction from his secretary general, Tendai Biti, the minister of finance, who challenged Mugabe to withdraw his party from the coalition and call fresh elections.

"Zanu-PF cannot … continue to be normative members of this government when they are working against it at every turn," Biti said. "Either they are in or they are out. If they are out, then bring on the election."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

22 WOZA members arrested in Bulawayo for discussing constitution

2nd February 2010

22 WOZA members arrested in Bulawayo for discussing constitution

At 11 am today, 22 women in a private home were arrested in Pumula, a
suburb of Bulawayo. They are currently being held at Pumula Police
Station. Most of the arrested are members of WOZA who were discussing
the constitutional reform process. As lawyers were unable to respond,
WOZA National Coordinator, Jenni Williams called the Officer in Charge
at Pumula, Assistant Inspector Chimani, and asked him why the members
had been arrested. He professed no knowledge of the situation.

The meeting was a private meeting of members exempt under all public
order laws. Please call Inspector Chimani on + 263 9 422907 or 422898
and ask him to stop harassing WOZA members. Also advise him that there
is an ongoing constitutional reform process countrywide and that they
should participate and allow others to participate freely.

2nd February 2010

For more information, please call Jenni Williams on +263 912 898 110 /
+263 11 213 885 or Magodonga Mahlangu on +263 912 362 668.
Alternatively, email or visit