Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his visit to Zimbabwe - Comments by the State (A/HRC/44/50/Add.3)


Human Rights Council
Forty-fourth session
15 June–3 July 2020
Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

I. Introduction

A. Introduction

1 . The Government of Zimbabwe expresses its gratitude to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, for accepting the Government of Zimbabwe's invitation to visit the country to assess the situation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the country.

2 . This invitation demonstrates Zimbabwe’s commitment to the promotion and protection of its citizens' rights and is also a clear expression of the Government’s willingness to constructively engage with international human rights mechanisms in fulfilment of its international obligations.

3 . The Government of Zimbabwe hereunder outlines its position in response to the report by the Special Rapporteur, which covers: Political, economic and social background; the legal, normative and institutional frameworks; good practices and challenges; exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Conclusions and Recommendations, among others.

B. General overview

4 . Generally speaking, the Special Rapporteur's report falls short of the standards set out in the Code of Conduct for Human Rights Council Special Procedures Mandate Holders which, inter alia, enjoin mandate holders to always conduct their work in an impartial, transparent and independent manner. This is so because his report is heavily punctuated by subjective language and biases against the Government, as well as being over prescriptive in some instances. Such an approach by the Special Rapporteur therefore leaves the report unbalanced and biased.

5 . The report restricts the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to the political arena and makes no effort to interrogate the exercise of the rights in respect of influencing discussions and policy making in other aspects of Zimbabwean life such as social justice, religious freedoms, health, community and sustainable development, women and children’s rights, among others. It is therefore misleading to claim that the Government of Zimbabwe is not consistent in guaranteeing and promoting an enabling environment for the enjoyment of the freedoms to associate and assemble.

6 . The target population and key informants used by the Special Rapporteur are way below a reasonable standard to inform findings of a human rights mission of this magnitude which should, in the minimum, embody a national outlook. The Special Rapporteur interacted with only two of the Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution and incidental provincial government structures. He also used only two provincial non-state actor experiences to assess how government implements the rights to freedom of assembly and association. This is notwithstanding the fact that Zimbabwe is divided into 10 provinces with similar sub-structures in the form of districts, wards, villages down to the family unit. It is regrettable that the Special Rapporteur objected to a specific request for an audience by community groups representing the residents of Chimanimani and Chipinge, two districts that were ravaged by Tropical Cyclone Idai in March 2019.

7 . Thus, the Special Rapporteur's sample evidently fails to embody national realities of the status of implementing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in Zimbabwe.

8 . Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur relied on unnamed non-state actor groups such as civil society organisations, community based organisations and labour unions. In this regard, he ended up in many instances pointing to what he baldly referred to as “some sources”, leading to several general and sweeping statements.

9 . In view of the above, the report by the Special Rapporteur is not reflective and representative of the state of affairs in Zimbabwe regarding the implementation of the two rights.