316 cases of Organised Violence and Torture reported in Zim’s post-election period

A total of 316 post-election related Organised Violence and Torture (OVT) cases were documented across the country by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) between the period August 24, to September 30, 2023. 

This is an increase from 274 violations recorded by the Forum in its 2018 Post-Election Violence Monitoring Report that covered the period from August 1 to 31, 2018.

“Therefore, the 2023 post-electoral environment has emerged as more volatile than the 2018 post-election period despite the latter being tainted by the occurrence of the August 1, 2018, shootings which resulted in the death of seven civilians,” said the Forum in its latest post-election report that captures post-electoral violations in Zimbabwe.

The latest report is titled: ‘The New “Error”! A preliminary report on Post-election Organised Violence and Torture: 23 August to 30 September 2023’ 

This report’s methodology was based on information from Forum members, information reported to and handled by the Forum’s Public Interest Litigation Unit (PIU), verified updates from Forum Monitors, civic society reports, verified media reports, and official press statements. 

According to the forum, the 316 post-election OVT cases included arbitrary arrests/unlawful detention, lawfare/selective application of the law, assault and/or torture, abduction/disappearances, arson/malicious property damage, threats/harassment/intimidation, extra-judicial killings, undue restrictions on freedom of assembly and association, and displacements/in need of relocation following victimisation.

Displacements and forced relocations are the most common post-election human rights abuses highlighted by the Forum in this report. 

A daily human rights tracker from the Forum dated August 28, 2023, 74 people had been displaced in Mashonaland Central, particularly in Muzarabani, Mount Darwin, Uzumba Marambapfungwe and Mudzi. 

“37 were male, 25 were female and the remaining 12 were children. Affected persons were mainly opposition political party agents and their families. Safe houses were provided for the women and children by well-wishers which left the 37 affected males in need of dire assistance,” stated the Forum, adding this is a highly alarming trend that demonstrates Zimbabwe’s unparalleled levels of post-election victimisation.

The Forum is gravely concerned by the arbitrary arrests of prominent opposition political actors, opposition political party supporters, human rights defenders and those perceived as voices of dissent. 

“Arbitrary arrests emerge as the second most frequent type of post-election-related human rights violations. The Forum is of the view that the targeted arrests constitute an inexcusable violation of basic fair trial rights and of the fair administration of justice in general,” said the organisation.

Closely linked to arbitrary arrests and or unlawful detention is the use of lawfare to muzzle dissent, said the Forum where retributive criminal charges in the post-electoral landscape in Zimbabwe “demonstrate the desire by the government to consolidate power and silence dissenting voices amidst the ongoing legitimacy crisis in the country.”

“To achieve this, trumped-up or flimsy charges are imposed on the accused. Furthermore, the police are seen arresting first before triggering investigations first in the identified cases,” read the report.

Instances of assault and or torture have been prevalent in the post-election period as the political landscape remains rife with tension. 

“This has been seen through the inter party political violence that broke out at the Harare Town House on 7 September 2023 after Zanu PF and the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters clashed,” read the report.

On 10 September 2023, the Forum received an alert that police were going around indiscriminately assaulting civilians in the Harare Central Business District at night.

“On 10 September 2023, violent skirmishes occurred at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo which rocked the high-profile match between local long-standing football rivals, Highlanders F.C and Dynamos F.C. Videos of the violent clashes and Highlanders supporters overpowering the police trended for days on X with citizens indicating how the clashes spoke to a frustrated electorate following the general plebiscite that secured what is to many, an unbearable prospect of five more years under Zanu PF,”  read the report.

The Forum said a highly concerning trend in the post-electoral landscape is the increase in abductions and or enforced disappearances that subsequently result in torture. 

“Enforced disappearance is an abhorrent practice that has frequently been used as a strategy to spread fear and terror within society. The Forum remains gravely concerned about the rising cases of enforced and/or involuntary disappearances associated with elections being used as a tool to exert fear and political control,” read the report.

There has been a disturbing trend of retributive post-election violence that has been witnessed through arson and/or malicious damage to property, said the Forum, noting this was a continuing trend observed in the pre-election phase.

“The incidents mainly targeted opposition CCC supporters and affiliates.”

The Forum added that intimidation cases of threats, harassment and intimidation are difficult to enumerate due to the high frequency with which such incidents occur, further because one incident can involve multiple victims, most of whom choose not to seek medical and/or legal assistance.

“The statistics covered in the period under review are therefore not exhaustive or representative of a full national outlook. The documented cases do however speak to cases that the Forum and its membership responded to and independently verified.” read the report.

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