Human rights abuses still prevalent in Zim-US gvt

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Relations between Zimbabwe and the United States remain strained as Washington is concerned with government’s continued violation of the rule of law, property rights and human rights.

Wongai Zhangazha

The US 2015 edition of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released last week also raises concern over Zimbabwe’s failure to take action on persons implicated in the abuse of public funds.

The report indicated that abductions, torture, abuse, and harassment of opposition activists as well as the partisan application of the rule of law by security forces and the judiciary continued unabated.

“There were many other human rights problems. Prison conditions were harsh. The government’s expropriation of private property continued. Executive political influence and interference in the judiciary continued, and the government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights,” said the US government.

“The government generally failed to investigate or prosecute state security or Zanu PF supporters responsible for violence. Authorities restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. The government continued to evict citizens, invade farms, private businesses and properties; and demolish informal marketplaces and settlements.”

In the report, the US said in 2015 there were reports of the Zimbabwe government or its agents committing arbitrary or unlawful killings.

“On April 23, three Criminal Investigation Department police officers arrested Robert Takawira for suspected theft.

The officers severely beat Takawira with baton sticks before taking him to a police station where they denied him medical attention. On April 24, he died from those injuries while in police custody,” reads the report. Also mentioned in the report is the killing of MDC-T Zaka North district chairperson Pepukai Mudzembiri on April 24 by alleged Zanu PF supporters and state security agents.

“Police investigators stated that he was killed in a hit-and-run accident, a point disputed by human rights organisations and MDC-T party officials. A Zanu PF supporter reportedly threatened Mudzembiri with abduction and death before the 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections,” states the report.

“Impunity for past politically motivated violence remained a problem. Police and the prosecutor general failed to arrest or prosecute senior or well-known Zanu PF supporters for violence in previous years.

“There were limited advances in holding legally accountable those responsible for the killings of at least 19 citizens who died of injuries sustained during the 2008 political violence that targeted opposition party members; more than 270 others also were killed that year. Observers believed the primary perpetrators of the violence were members of Zanu PF, including the party’s youth militia, and individuals identifying themselves as war veterans.”

The US government bemoaned the Zimbabwe government’s unwillingness to acknowledge past atrocities, like Gukurahundi that have continued to affect Shona-Ndebele relations.

Concerns were also raised on Zimbabwe government’s snail pace in investigating the whereabouts of human rights activist Itai Dzamara who was abducted last year by suspected security agents.

Quoting a local non-governmental organisation, the US said from January through September, 155 people sought treatment for injuries and trauma sustained from abuse by security forces, compared with 169 in 2014.

During the same period, the NGO reported that 165 people sought treatment for injuries and trauma sustained from abuse by Zanu PF supporters, compared with 88 in 2014. Nearly 40% of the cases took place in Harare, and the vast majority of the victims were affiliated with the MDC-T.

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