The month of May stands out owing to violations of the right to education, the right to food and civil and political rights mainly freedom of association and assembly. Most socio-economic violations that were reported this month were largely due to effects of the El-Nino induced drought, the economy’s continued downward spiral, worsening cash crisis and exacerbated lack of a diversified export base.
This May ZPP recorded the highest number of incidences where pupils were sent away from school for failure to pay school fees or clear the previous term’s arrears. This was in contravention of Section 75 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to basic education. At the beginning of the academic year, in January, ZPP recorded cases where students’ results were withheld because they owed fees. There were nine cases in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, of pupils barred from attending lessons because they had not yet paid their fees. Such cases increased significantly this month. All ten provinces were marred with cases where children were denied their right to education because their parents could not afford to pay fees on time. At Nkanyezi Primary School in Lobengula, Bulawayo, nine pupils were withdrawn from Early Childhood Development (ECD) after their parents failed to raise $64.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education,
Lazarus Dokora, has previously said schools have contracts with parents not children and therefore children should not lose out on lessons because parents have failed to fulfil contractual obligations.
Many families are reeling in the impacts of a deteriorating economy.
A remarkable number of human rights violations where community members were forced to contribute towards Zanu PF’s initial ‘Youth interface rally’ in Marondera slated for 2 June. The rallies to be held in all the ten provinces are a platform for President Robert Mugabe to launch the 2018 elections campaign. Zanu PF is targeting mobilising 100 000 youths per province.
In areas like Mudzi and Wedza in Mashonaland East, people were coerced into contributing money ranging from 50 cents to a dollar in order to ferry supporters to the rally. This went against the will of many people who support the party but could not afford and those that do not support the party and had no ambitions of attending the event. ZPP is in possession of a list of teachers’ names from Munamba Primary School in Murehwa District who were forced to each contribute $1 towards preparations for the rally. It’s a violation of freedom of association to force people into contributing funds for and or attending events of a political party that they do not subscribe to.
Civil and political rights have been commonly violated ahead of previous Zanu PF rallies like the ‘One Million Man March’ and First Lady Grace Mugabe’s ‘Meet The People’ rallies. In 2016, ahead of the ‘one million man march’ that was held in Harare on 25 May, 88 incidences of harassment and intimidation were reported and in the month under review the figure dipped slightly to 82. Such violations where community members are forced to attend Zanu PF rallies continue to occur despite the Zimbabwe Constitution in Section 58 provides that no person may be compelled to belong to an association or to attend a meeting or gathering.
Provinces with food aid programmes are fraught with violations of the right to food. In May, 35 food violations were recorded as compared to eleven the previous month and ten in May 2016. Most humanitarian organisations are reported to have folded their food aid programmes targeting vulnerable communities. Some village heads, councillors and political party members have threatened to hamper access to food and other resources to people that do not align themselves to Zanu PF ahead of the 2018 plebiscite.
Food violations are usually conversely related to discrimination. Cases of discrimination escalated to 42 this month as Zanu PF supporters prepared for the youth rally in Marondera in June and used food to lure people to the rally. The impending Chiwundura by-election, set for 15 July, is another reason for the increased cases of discrimination.
Only 15 cases of discrimination were recorded in April 2017, 16 cases in May 2016 and 15 cases in May 2015. It is reported that in Zvimba and Zaka Central, beneficiaries of food aid are told to first pay for transportation of the food. When called for comment, an international humanitarian organisation that was rolling out a food aid programme said they were looking into cases of village heads that are alleged to have ordered beneficiaries to pay and mobile cash agents that charge an extra fee when transacting for beneficiaries.
Karoi recorded a loss of life. A clamp down on illegal taxi operators turned violent when police officers used spikes and a woman, Chiedza Mandizvidza, was run over by a taxi fleeing municipal police. She sustained serious injuries and died at Chinhoyi Hospital. ZPP notes with dismay the fatalities and injuries caused by the spikes menace.
Other rights that were violated during the course of May include property rights, freedom of assembly and association. Cases of harassment and intimidation were high and there is a likelihood that they may be on an upward rise as the 2018 election campaigns intensify. Threat levels currently vary across districts and the determinants are also different. In Harare, Hwedza, Mutare and Masvingo the threat level is mild due to cases of assault, violations of freedom of association, political rights, the right to education and the right to food. The rest of the districts have a low threat level as violations ranged between zero to nine.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is encouraged to make a statement on the payment of school fees and turning away of students
The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to address issues of discrimination in food distribution
The police should stop using spikes as there are other means to enforcing road rules
Political parties are urged to respect the right to freedom of association and assembly