Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Human Rights & National Institutions Report, September 2012 – December 2012

Report
from Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Published on 31 Dec 2012 View Original

Courageous human rights defenders, disappointing compromises, but progress in Zimbabwe

January 7, 2013

This report provides information and analysis on developments relating to human rights and institutional reform in Zimbabwe between September 2012 and December 2012.

Executive Summary

This report, the second of 2012, covers the period from September to December 2012 and draws from our members and partners listed at the back. As such it includes all the major events of the period as they unfolded in the second half of the year. These events are presented in a thematically organised timeline which is divided under human rights themes equating to civil and political rights and to economic, social and cultural rights.

The 15th September 2012 marked the 4th anniversary of the signing of the Global Political Agreement. Zimbabwean civil society organisations reflected on the faltering progress and poor implementation of the articles agreed upon by the Political Principles to the Global Political Agreement. In a faltering process that has been more off than on, the population waited with baited breath for the new constitution promised by the political settlement which ushered in the inclusive government. Four years after the inception of the new political dispensation, Zimbabweans began to grow weary of waiting. Following a ZANU PF Politburo meeting in August 2012, the Party began to lobby for 166 ‘nonnegotiable’ amendments to the draft constitution.

Key demands were around issues including the executive powers of the President, the establishment of a National Youth Militia Service, and non acceptance of dual citizenship amongst a raft of other demands. Renewed hope came in October 2012 when the draft constitution was finally taken to a Second All Stakeholders’ Constitutional Conference. There was a collective sigh of relief as the event passed off peacefully. Soon afterwards, the waiting game and delaying tactics began again. There was no agreement about how the comments from the Conference would be incorporated into the final document nor who would finalise the document, or when it would finally be put to the people in a referendum. With 2012 drawing to a close there is still no finalisation in constitution making process and the process continues deadlocked and delayed.

This report documents the continuing harassment of civil society and political activists that characterised the period. The operating environment for NGO’s continued to be very challenging. Police arrested and ill treated peaceful protesters, especially the Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists. Other organisations that faced raids and arrests included The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the Counselling Services Unit and many other civil society organisations offering vital services to vulnerable Zimbabweans. Human Rights lawyers were hampered at every turn as they tried to carry out their professional duties and protect Human Rights Defenders.

Meanwhile, the population at large suffered endless miseries and health challenges due to an appalling level of service delivery and water borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery which were persistently reported throughout the period. As the Kimberly Process lifted its restrictions on sales of diamonds from the Marange diamond fields and the Finance Minister had to revise the budget dramatically downwards, many continued to call for transparency in the use of diamond revenue and asked why the enormous mineral wealth could not benefit the nation and help to educate, feed and keep healthy the ordinary people of the country.

Throughout the second half of 2012 SADC continued to hold the line that it first took on Zimbabwe in March 2011 during the SADC Summit in Livingstone, Zambia. SADC leaders continued to insist on the full implementation of the articles agreed to in the Global Political Agreement and to call for the finalisation of a new constitution before elections are held. Meanwhile the process of international re-engagement with Zimbabwe carried on with the easing of EU restrictive measures and the suspension of others. The EU emphasised an incremental approach which hinges on credible constitution making and election processes.

Fears of the same levels of political violence that characterised the 2008 election period were re-ignited when President Mugabe announced to the UN General Assembly that there would be a constitutional referendum in November 2012 and harmonised elections in March 2013. The news was greeted with great concern. In September 2012, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) stated that it would be logistically impossible to hold a referendum in November and elections in March. They cited disputes in finalising the new constitution, continuing political intimidation and gross inaccuracies in voters’ lists that still name ‘ghost’ electors who have long been dead. The organisation called for a number of important issues to be dealt with first. These include resourcing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, revision of the outdated Referendum Act and effecting technical changes to the Electoral Bill as well as updating and cleaning the voter’s roll. This led to the passing into law of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Amendment acts.

Sadly as 2012 drew to a close the Annual ZANU PF Congress rang a warning bell against NGO’s and, as if nothing had ever changed, within days, the police began wantonly raiding and arresting human rights organisations all over again.

Despite the setbacks narrated above, it is our view that Zimbabwe is in a better place today than it was 2008. All the credit is due to the Human Rights Defenders who have tirelessly worked on the ground as well as our regional and international partners and without whose input the country could have descended into lawlessness. The attainment of democracy is a process not an event and indeed Zimbabwe is currently in transition although that transition is fraught with unnecessary detours and compromises. However such compromises, disappointing as they may be in the short run, may aid the transitional process in the long run. A case in point is the limited temporal jurisdiction of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and Zimbabwe’s failure to ratify the Rome Statute.

Ironically a focus on ratification of the Rome Statute for some countries in transition can impede the chances of a peaceful transition. In other words whilst Zimbabwean civil society is absolutely committed to ratification, that long term necessity should also not derail the process of transition, and this indeed calls for a judicious balancing act. ‘In other words it was important not to allow perfection to become the enemy of the good.’