1.0 Executive Summary
An anniversary of brutality For Zimbabwe, August 2020, has been the most complicated month. During this month, the ruling Zanu PF started off by celebrating two years after its contested electoral victory in August 2018. Amid these celebrations, victims and families of those killed and injured when soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesting civilians on August 1, 2018, were still to get any recourse in the form of compensation, prosecution of perpetrators, or at the very least, an apology.
Ironically, August 2020, similarly to August 2018, started off on a bad note. In the same way six people were killed and injured by the army on August 1 2018, on August 1, 2020 the State had moved into full-time repression modem abducting, arresting and brutalising political activists and human rights defenders. The month started off with activist Tawanda Muchehiwa having been abducted and missing, only to be dumped three days later after the High Court ordered the police to release him.
Several activists, including MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, international award winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga, human rights activist Godfrey Kurauone and dozens others started off the month in police custody and while August 1 might have appeared like a hangover moment from the July 31 planned protests, it turned out that for government, the party was just starting.
Government, faced with a nation concerned about the mounting economic crisis, the crisis in the health sector, the restive, poorly paid civil service, the allegations of high level corruption and misgovernance, responded to these concerns with unmatched brutality marked by arbitrary arrests, abductions, torture and intimidation.
This invited international attention, and once again, Zimbabwe was on the spotlight for human rights abuses.
The #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign started early in the month and several local and international politicians, artistes, human rights defenders and citizens used this to air concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a mounting crisis, the Zimbabwean government continued to deny there being a crisis.
Instead of addressing the concerns, officials in government pulled the excuse that there were ‘some foreign hands’ behind the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign and all the actions calling for government to end corruption and respect human rights.
As a result of this, the State security, were once again, and five months in a row, the major perpetrators of human rights abuses and this time in a bolder and less covert way. In the month of August, ZPP recorded one case of a suspected politically motivated murder of Karoi councillor Lavender Chinguwo, 51 cases of assault, 29 cases of unlawful detention, two abductions, and 117 cases of harassment and intimidation.
As has become the trend, the state security agents were the chief perpetrators of human rights violations. In August, the police accounted for 42.65 percent of perpetrators, the army at 25.11 percent, unspecified state agents at 2.73 percent. In total state security agents are responsible for 70.49 percent of all violations this month. Political parties had their fair share of human rights violations, with Zanu PF leading the way at 12.92 percent, MDC Alliance at 2.52 percent and MDC-T Khupe at 0.32 percent.
MDC Alliance supporters faced the most victimisation, with 10.91 percent of the total victims being affiliated to the party. 0.12 percent of victims are affiliated to Zanu PF, while 0.06 percent are MDC-T Khupe supporters. 88.9 percent of the victims are of unknown political affiliation, and the majority of them were victimised as part of the State’s random and clandestine clampdown on civilians. In total, ZPP recorded 269 human rights violations in August, with the majority of these (70.49 percent) being perpetrated by State security agents. At this stage, we ask, IS THIS FREEDOM?