HUMAN Rights Watch (HRW) has blamed Sadc and the African Union (AU) for the continued human rights abuses and lack of improvement in governance issues in Zimbabwe after they endorsed the July 31 general elections marred by allegations of systematic rigging, disenfranchisement of voters, a chaotic voter registration exercise and use of an outdated voters’ roll, among other irregularities.
HRW is an international non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.
In its Human Rights Report 2014 released on Tuesday in Johannesburg, HRW accused regional and continental blocs of failing to resolve the July 31 poll dispute, in which President Robert Mugabe won by 61% of the vote and his Zanu PF party clinched a two-thirds majority of the 210 contested seats in the National Assembly.
Zimbabwe’s polls divided the international community and the region with key western countries and groupings like the United Kingdom, United States, European Union and Australia declaring that the electoral process was neither credible nor fair.
This differed from Sadc and the AU, both of which endorsed the elections.
HRW said: “The ability of key international actors to apply pressure on Zimbabwe for a resolution of the election dispute, and for improvements in human rights and governance, was largely nullified by Sadc and the AU’s endorsement of the July elections.”
It added: “On Zimbabwe, the EU, the UK, and the US had previously deferred to Sadc and the AU, whose response to the flawed July elections weakened international efforts to ensure restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
The 2013 polls were held following a series of court applications and Sadc summits to determine the date when Zimbabwe could dissolve a four-and-a-half-year coalition government set up in February 2009.
The government was set up as a compromise after the country held a bloody June 2008 presidential runoff.
HRW said while on the surface Zimbabwe held ‘peaceful’ elections, the poll was flawed.
“Although the election was peaceful, the electoral process had major flaws, including highly partisan statements by the leadership of the security forces, restrictions on and intimidation of journalists and civil society activists, and a skewed voter registration process,” it said.
The elections, local monitors said, were marred by widespread irregularities which included reports of voter intimidation by Zimbabwe’s security forces, traditional leaders coercing villagers to vote for Zanu PF, and a high number of “ghost” or duplicate voters present on the voters’ roll.
The observers further noted that large numbers of people were unfairly turned away from polling stations.
However, despite these flaws Sadc and the AU endorsed the poll thereby pulling the rug from under the UK and the EU, which had relied on the regional bloc’s determination for their future actions on Zimbabwe.
These differences have further compounded the international community’s inaction.
“The discord among key actors diminished international pressure to address the disputed election and help resolve Zimbabwe’s pressing human rights and governance issues, which Zanu PF has been unwilling to seriously address,” HRW argued.