Human rights abuses still prevalent in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s poor state of human rights remains largely unchanged despite the adoption of a new constitution that has an expanded bill of rights which includes secondary rights like housing, health and education, civil society organisations (CSOs) have said.

By Paidamoyo Muzulu

Political activists are still experiencing arbitrary arrests and selective prosecution on frivolous allegations, while government has threatened to demolish illegal structures despite the unavailability of alternative accommodation — a move dubbed Murambatsvina II.

Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) programmes officer Hopewell Gumbo said social and economic rights remain very low on the priority list of government.

Gumbo said: “There is no doubt that poverty stinks in Zimbabwe and that is a clear sign that social and economic rights have been violated and perpetrators are not ashamed of this pathetic situation. While cholera killed over 4 000 in 2008-9, authorities are content with a situation where access to water remains a privilege in modern day Harare.

“Many children are condemned to poverty by an education system that priorities commodification more than universal access.”

Gumbo’s comment dovetails with the latest Human Rights Watch report on Zimbabwe’s water situation. The report said Zimbabwe was on the verge of another cholera epidemic with erratic water supplies and the emergence of unprotected water sources in many suburbs. Cholera remains a constant threat as local authorities continue to struggle to provide clean water amid insufficient rates revenues and crumbling infrastructure.

On the political front, 21 MDC-T supporters from Glen View accused of murdering a police officer were acquitted after nearly two years in remand prison; the remaining seven are to stand trial while one died in prison.

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested while trying to represent her clients whose offices were allegedly being illegally searched without a search warrant, but has since been acquitted.

Media Institute of Southern African Zimbabwe chairperson Njabulo Ncube said the media environment has not improved despite the new constitution.

“Save for the reduction in the arbitrary arrests of journalists, we are still within the confines of the discredited legislative regime, the insult and defamation laws are still in place,” Ncube said. “The laws need to be aligned to the new constitution.”

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member Alec Muchadehama also said nothing has changed despite adoption of the new charter early this year.

“The judiciary is under the same challenges it was facing in 2012 such as state violations of human rights, constant fear among citizens and lack of freedoms,” Muchadehama said.