A new report has found that 63% of all reported violations that have taken place as part of pre-election Organised Violence and Torture (OVT) are serious, including abduction, arson, assault, attempted murder, murder, torture, and rape.
This is contained in a report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum covering the period from January 2021 to July 2023.
The Forum explained that their findings are premised from January 2021 to July 2023, as campaigning generally begins about two years before the actual election, and not merely in the 90 days before the actual poll.
These violations have a bearing on the state of peace in Zimbabwe as they are criminal acts that warrant arrest and prosecution, said the Forum.
“Statistics show assaults and torture alone accounted for 62 percent while intimidation is another frequently reported violation, which has been common in all previous reporting on elections,” said the Forum in its Preliminary Report on Pre-Election Organised Violence and Torture January 2021 to July 2023.
Only cases with reports to human rights organisations, lawyers and or medical workers were included to provide the highest possible veracity of the reports.
As a result, the report provides information on 1 463 cases, collected from January 2021 to July 2023.
“It is evident that opposition political parties comprise the major number of victims. Together, over time and in different configurations, the MDC – MDC, MDC-A, MDC-T, and, most recently, the CCC – account for nearly 60% (59.9%) of all reported victims. Ordinary civilians account for a further 35%, and the remainder is a very tiny proportion,” the findings showed.
“Therefore, it is very clear that opposition political supporters have been the major targets for OVT over the period, and to some degree, ordinary civilians.”
The Forum emphasised this data represents a glimpse of the OVT that has occurred in Zimbabwe since January 2021 and is based only on individuals who were willing to seek assistance, whereas ‘many’ are too fearful or unable to receive assistance.
“However, the picture is corroborated to some extent by the reports of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum,” said the organisation.
Findings also showed there was a linear increase in violations from January 2021 to July 2023. “Whilst there was a high frequency of violations in Manicaland in 2021 – mainly due to resource conflicts and ‘illegal mining’ – the trend overall is for violations to increase in direct relation to the proximity of the elections,” said the Forum.
The perpetrators are mostly drawn from the ruling Zanu PF party, findings presented.
“The high proportion of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as perpetrators is of concern, but a more detailed analysis will indicate events in which the ZRP are mainly involved. However, it is a matter that such a high proportion (35%) of state agents are alleged to be perpetrators of human rights violations, whether linked to elections or not. The seriousness of the allegations should not be disregarded,” the findings showed.
“A very high proportion (63%) of the allegations meet the criteria of serious crimes – aggravated assault since there is no crime of torture in Zimbabwe – and this is corroborated by the reports of the weapons used in these alleged violations: in 53% of the cases reported the use of weapons allows the conclusion that serious crimes were committed.”
The Forum said that based on their ‘limited sample’ it is impossible to support the views of observation groups that Zimbabwean elections were generally peaceful, claiming such an examination would require a more extensive study, which civil society currently under attack will be able to conduct.
As part of its recommendations, the Forum called on SADC to insist that the Zimbabwe government facilitates a credible investigation of the political violence over the election period, and including the pre-election period.
“The Zimbabwe government should mandate and fully resource the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), as the constitutionally appointed body, to fully investigate human rights violations over the entire election period,” said the Forum.
“The government should stop targeting, persecution and attacks on civilians, civil society members and political opponents in the post-election phase. ZRP should urgently release investigation findings of all OVT-related incidents and names of identified perpetrators of police brutality against civilians.”
“The government should open up civic and democratic space to facilitate the active demand for the freedoms of assembly and expression and immediately shut down the operations of FAZ as it continues to discharge a reign of terror in communities.”