Zim’s human rights record under spotlight as inflation gallops to 837%

Zimbabwe’s checkered human rights record has been put back on the spotlight as local and globally driven campaigns gain traction against the backdrop of a deteriorating socio-political situation in the southern African nation.

Authorities in Harare have over the past few weeks faced immense criticism following a renewed onslaught on dissenting voices such as opposition activities, civic society organisations, lawyers and the clergy.

As inflation in Zimbabwe continues to soar, with year-on-year inflation for the month of July reaching 837.53% from 737.3% in June, pressure has been ratcheted on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to tackle a host of problems confronting the economy.

The Law Society of Zimbabwe, an independent body which regulates law practice in the country on Sunday raised the red flag over human issues in Zimbabwe.

Despite the growing calls, Mnangagwa’s government has trashed the reports.

“The Law Society of Zimbabwe notes with grave concern and condemns the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, including the wanton and unmitigated attacks on legal practitioners carrying out their constitutionally protected jobs of representing citizens, by the state or certain of its organs,” the LSZ said in a statement.

“It is extremely concerning that no arrests have been made or action against known state officials who have knowingly committed these human rights abuses. Urgent action to reverse and eradicate these abuses needs to be taken by the state as tangible assurance to the nation that the state does not approve this conduct and that it has no hand in these activities.”

Across the border in neighbouring South Africa, lawyers and the opposition have also called Zimbabwe’s government to order, piling pressure on the country’s leader Cyril Ramaphosa who also doubles as Africa Union chair to intervene.

“The Johannesburg Society of Advocates expresses its disapproval of the conduct recently attributed to the Zimbabwean government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa which has reportedly taken advantage of the lockdown regulations to crackdown on any forms of dissent, arresting over 60 opposition politicians, activists and journalists on a variety of nebulous charges,” the Johannesburg Bar Council said in a statement.”

“It becomes disturbing when the very people who are supposed to ensure that these rights are respected and upheld themselves become victimized by their government.”

Over the past few weeks lawyers– representing opposition members and civic society activists—who include Thabani Mpofu, Douglas Coltart, Dumisani Dube, Choice Damiso, Joshua Chirambwe, Parick Tererai, Tapiwa Makanza and Lawman Chimuriwo were arrested on what critics described as trumped up charges.

Last month, the government thwarted planned protests over high levels of corruption in the public sector and the rising cost of living triggered by an economic implosion.

Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume and some opposition members were also arrested and currently locked up for allegedly plotting the mass demonstrations.

Journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu’s nephew Tawanda Muchehiwa was, at the height of the human rights abuses abducted, tortured and left for dead after suspected security agents failed to locate his uncle.

As focus shifts on Mnangagwa, who promised to change Zimbabwe’s bad boy tag after taking over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe following a coup, the Catholics Bishops in Zimbabwe this week went on a collision with authorities after it blamed the establishment for the escalating human rights situation.

Information minister Monica Mutsvanga spilled vitriol on the clergy causing a furore after making tribal remarks on Harare Archbishop Robert Ndlovu.

“He wants to posit as the leader of righteous Ndebele minority by fanning the psychosis of tribal victimisation,” she said.

Her remarks were widely criticized on social media platforms such as twitter and facebook.

This is the not the first time that the Zimbabwe’s government has assailed the Catholic church for speaking truth to power. During the Gukurahundi disturbances, then Information minister Nathan Shamhuyarira, in 1983 bashed the church after it blamed government for the massacre of 20,000 people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

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