“Mnangagwa has failed to break from Mugabe’s violent past” – Amnesty International

Amnesty International Zimbabwe says the human rights situation in the country has remained extremely concerning over the last five years while a genuine shift can be accomplished if the government ‘simply complies’ to the country’s constitution. 

The organisation highlights how the government has increased its efforts to suppress human rights, with individuals who speak out or organise protests facing persecution and how the military has been heavily involved in policing civilian gatherings in violations of Zimbabwe’s Constitution that guarantees peaceful protests.

According to Amnesty International, family members have also been targeted and harassed in order to intimidate activists. 

“Abductions have also been on the rise, further exacerbating the human rights situation. Although the Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of expression, journalists, opposition party members and critics of the government who speak out on and offline are harassed or arrested for speaking out against human rights violations,” said Amnesty International in a Review of Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Record from 2018 to 2023, in which the organisation examines Zimbabwe’s human rights record since Emmerson Mnangagwa took office.

“Activists and political party leaders have been criminalised for exercising their right to dissent.”

Read the full report here:

Amnesty International reveals there has been no meaningful shift in the human rights legacy between the Mugabe and Mnangagwa presidencies by examining the extent to which the current government has failed to reform under the “abysmal legacy” of human rights under Robert Mugabe. 

“The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has been a cause for great concern for many years, “ said the organisation, highlighting how the enduring legacy of the late former president Robert Mugabe’s government was undoubtedly one of violence and oppression. 

“The resignation of Robert Mugabe as president in 2017 through a military-assisted transition and the holding of elections in 2018 raised hope for a new Zimbabwe. The sense that human rights reform could be achieved in Zimbabwe was palpable and shared by both Zimbabweans and the international community.”

President Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor, articulated his vision of a new and prosperous Zimbabwe, which he dubbed “the Zimbabwe we want” in his inauguration speech.

According to Amnesty International, Mnangagwa promised “to act fairly and impartially, without fear or favour, as President of all Zimbabweans,” in what he referred to as the ‘Second Republic,’ he vowed that his government will be “responsive to the people’s needs.”

However, Amnesty International, claims that five years on, President Mnangagwa’s government has “failed to break from the past and continued to crack down on human rights.”

“The state authorities have employed various methods to suppress dissenting voices. Policing has increasingly been militarised and the excessive use of force by law enforcement during protests has become all too common,” said the organisation.

As a result, the space for civic engagement has continued to shrink rapidly, making it increasingly difficult for individuals and groups to freely express themselves peacefully, safely, and effectively.

Amnesty International highlights that since 2018, austerity measures, Covid-19 and natural disasters pushed many deeper into conditions of poverty and financial insecurity that amounted to a denial of their economic, social and cultural rights. 

“Zimbabweans also faced significant food shortages due to the economic crisis and frequency of natural disasters. The government did not put in place adequate measures to mitigate the food crisis and uphold the right to food,”read the report.

The government also continued to forcibly evict people without providing adequate alternative housing. 

“Women in Zimbabwe faced challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services, with many maternal deaths resulting from Covid-19 related restrictions on movement and young girls facing barriers to sexual and reproductive health information,” said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International also cited that the culture of intimidation and harassment of journalists has persisted under the current government.

“Since the 2018 elections, Amnesty International has documented several incidents where journalists have been persecuted simply for expressing an opinion,” read the report.

The government has consistently used security personnel to quash any opposition, Amnesty International added.

“In Zimbabwe, the legal system has been known to be used as a tool to suppress protests and voices of dissent. There have been several prominent cases where the aim of the prosecution appears to be persecution rather than the objective pursuit of justice,” read the report.

“In such cases the courts are used to silence dissent with courts lacking judicial independence and relying on obsolete laws. There have also been cases where authorities level malicious charges against persons, dragging them through lengthy court processes in an effort to silence them from expressing dissenting views.”

Amnesty International notes how socio-economic rights continue to be eroded in Zimbabwe with inadequate access to healthcare, especially for women and girls’ enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights.

“The rising cost of living continues to drive many deeper into poverty as the government fails to ensure the progressive realisation of the rights to adequate food, housing and other socioeconomic rights in this context,” read the report.

“A formal conception of the rule of law that is void of human rights values and principles will invariably lead to arbitrariness and repression. The absence of an independent judiciary means that victims of human rights violations continue to be denied access to justice and effective remedies.”

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