Christmas Day of 2021 was generally rainy across Zimbabwe, but that may not have deterred many citizens from following the long-held tradition of celebrating the occasion.
For Zimbabwe, the day has ceased to be just about the birth of Christ; it has become an opportunity for people to travel to meet with family and friends to celebrate the end of the year.
Despite the deep economic challenges the country is going through, Zimbabweans often save for this holiday in order to be part of the festivities.
It is therefore such a tragedy that on this day, five people die in circumstances that could have been avoided.
A soldier reportedly discharged his fire arm and killed five people as three other people sustained injuries at Wanganui Growth Point in MhonhoroNgezi.
This is just one of the many cases where security forces have been implicated in public shootings, robberies, murder and other criminal activities, a trend that increased in December, raising alarm over the guarantee of security of ordinary citizens in the country.
While the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) said it was concerned over the increased involvement of members of the army in criminal activities, the institution did not take responsibility of providing a concrete plan to deal with the issue, with Brigadier-General Augustine Chipwere only appealing to the public to report “rogue” soldiers.
In the same vein, there was an increase in the prevalence of police brutality between 22 December 2021 and 2 January 2022 as police deployed to enforce COVID-19 regulations did so with contempt for the law.
It is therefore not a surprise that ZPP recorded four cases of killings,30 cases of assault, and five cases of unlawful detention, most of which are attributable to the actions of the state security agents who seem to have become the law unto themselves.
In light of that, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), contributed to nearly 40 percent of all human rights violations and the Zimbabwe National Army contributed to nearly two percent.
While the cases involving the army may be fewer, they are more severe as they resulted in unnecessary loss of life like in the Mhondoro-Ngezi case where a soldier shot down people during a bar brawl.
It is of great concern that of the four cases where people died, three of these cases involved state security agents while the other one involved an artisanal miner.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has continued to call on state security agents to act professionally and on the State to ensure all perpetrators are brought to justice.
The State must also take preventive measures like capacitating the disciplinary units of the army and the police, keeping a tight lock of armouries, and ensuring that soldiers do not roam around in public carrying weapons.
In addition to the state security agents playing an undesirable role in human rights abuses, the ruling Zanu PF party significantly contributed to the December 2021 statistics and was responsible for just over 47 percent of all violations.
This is mainly as a result of the party’s internal provincial elections, held in the last two weeks of December, marred by violence, intimidation and harassment.
In one of the cases in Mhondoro-Ngezi a rival candidate opened fire and randomly shot at a vehicle of his opponent.
As the political fights happened, there was a surge in incidents involving artisanal miners and machete gangs, and in the month under review they contributed to about five percent of the violations.
Zimbabwe’s socio-economic situation continued to deteriorate, with increased incidents of substance abuse among the hopeless and jobless young persons making them even more vulnerable.
In light of the gloomy atmosphere, the ZPP believes 2022 should be a year where the government of Zimbabwe should reflect and be considerate to the citizens who have continued to bear the brunt of human rights abuses by the very arms of security that should protect them.
Government should be serious about tackling the rise in substance abuse, and must take into account that it is about young people not having available, accessible and equal opportunities to generate income. High level corruption, greed by those with access to national resources, a lack of a peoplecentred approach to the economy, politicisation of all sectors of the economy and lack of transparency have robbed a generation of opportunities, and the ZPP appeals to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to seriously look into the implications of his failure to deal with this issue on the future generations.