Zimbabwe: NGOs disappointed at AU's lack of response

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

  • Zimbabwean NGOs said they were "disappointed" that the African Union (AU) had failed to acknowledge a resolution passed by its rights body, criticising the Harare regime.

The AU summit in Khartoum, Sudan, which concluded this week, declined to take up the resolution tabled by its African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), saying the Zimbabwe government had not had time to react.

"We understand that the government has to be given time to respond, but at least the summit should have noted the report," said Tor-Hugne Olsen, international office coordinator of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, a coalition of 17 Zimbabwean NGOs.

The ACHPR's resolution noted its concern over the "continuing deterioration of the human rights situation" in Zimbabwe, and expressed alarm at the number of people displaced by the official clean-up campaign, Operation Murambatsvina, which the government said was aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals.

A UN report estimated that the operation left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood after kicking off in May 2005. The candid resolution urged the government to end the evictions and called for action against those responsible for the policy.

It said the Zimbabwean government should "respect fundamental rights", such as freedom of expression, association and assembly, and repeal or amend "repressive legislation", including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act.

The government was asked to cooperate with the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, and allow a fact-finding mission to investigate the impact of the clean-up operation. Last year the rapporteur, Bahame Tom Nyanduga, attempted to gauge the impact of the operation, but had to leave the country without completing his mission after his visit was deemed "unprocedural".

The ACHPR also urged the AU to renew the mandate of the AU Envoy to Zimbabwe former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to investigate the impact of the clean-up operation.

According to the official Herald newspaper on Thursday, Zimbabwe had indicated that it was "keen to open dialogue" with the ACHPR, and Patrick Chinmasa, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Minister, had held a meeting with the rights body at the AU summit. He was quoted as saying that the government wanted to "clear the air".