The month of November has become significant in that it is the anniversary of President Mnangagwa’s assumption of a coup propelled establishment, and with each year, Zimbabwe’s human rights situation assumes a new low.
In his love song, Stand by Me,
British singer-songwriter Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, known professionally as Seal, sings, “When the night has come, and the land is dark and the moon is the only, light we'll see, no I won't, be afraid. Just as long, as you stand….
Just as Seal placed high hopes on his lover, Zimbabweans welcomed the coming in of President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power in 2017 with high hopes that even though it was through a military coup, there was a chance for him to stand by Zimbabweans when it got dark. Four years later, we write a totally different story, and each November, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has recorded an increasing desire by those in power to entrench themselves using all but democratic means.
The means include - at the highest and lowest levels - the use of state security agents to suppress dissent, interference in the affairs of the judiciary, weaponization of the law, politicization of aid, state-party conflation, and enactment of Draconian laws like the recently gazetted Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill.
It is an all-out assault on the right of citizens to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed entitlements!
To show this trend, in November 2020, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zanu PF, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), war veterans, and municipal police, contributed a combined 63.26 percent of all human rights violations. This November, the ZRP, ZNA, Zanu PF, war veterans and other state agents contribute to a staggering nearly 86 percent of all violations and this is a cause for concern considering that the police and the army have a mandate to protect, and not violate citizens. It points to the presence of a police state, where the law and law enforcement agents are used to protect the interests of the few in positions of authority. For the third month Zanu PF leads the list, having contributed to about 54 percent of all the violations and the ZRP follows at 26 percent. Zanu PF, being the ruling party, wields influence in government institutions, including those responsible for state security.
So, by having the ruling party and the police leading the list of human rights violators, it is apparent the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated to levels where citizens are on their own.
The main opposition MDC Alliance contributed to just below four percent of all violations and one case of intra party violence against Zanu PF’s 10 cases. Just as in November 2020, there was a significant use of aid as a political tool as government rolled out its Pfumvudza inputs scheme. ZPP notes that apart from the widespread decline in the volumes of inputs government distributed, there was more discrimination of those believed to be supporters and sympathisers of the opposition and Zanu PF once again used its influence in central and local government to influence the distribution. For example, on 9 November in Zvimba West in Kanyemba Village Ward 12, suspected Zanu PF activists torched a house belonging to a woman believed to be an opposition political supporter to spite her for receiving Pfumvudza inputs.
During the distribution of inputs, Zanu PF activists reportedly threatened the victim, claiming that she was not entitled to government inputs because she did not support the ruling party. It did not take days before suspected arsonists burned her houses, and in the process, she lost farming inputs, clothing and other property.
The politicization of inputs has continued to happen for a long time and ZPP has continued to keep the issue alive, and has always expressed concern over how Zanu PF officials and activists hijack the process which should be conducted by government employees and other non partisan stakeholders.
Recently, the politicization of Pfumvudza inputs was a subject of discussion in Parliament.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa claimed the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) officers, charged with the responsibility to stock and distribute the inputs, were living in fear of releasing the agriculture inputs after being ordered by Zanu PF members to issue the inputs to farmers without the ruling party officials’ consent. “Zanu PF officials are now giving instructions to GMB officers not to release inputs.
Inputs are being politicised,” Mliswa said.
In response, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also the leader of Government Business in Parliament, said “No Zanu PF officials should be involved in the distribution of inputs. There is no go-between in this scheme.” His statements are in stark contrast to the situation on the ground, where ZPP has recorded 24 cases of discrimination of opposition supporters during the distribution of Pfumvudza inputs countrywide.
Ironically, President Mnangagwa officially launched the Pfumvudza programme in Gokwe, at a Zanu PF party event, and the message, although not verbal, was clear, this was a programme for Zanu PF supporters.
A report in the Herald confirmed the partisan nature of the programme with a colorful piece that had the following lines: “On a grey and calm day, with rains on the horizons, thousands of Zanu PF supporters thronged Chief Nenyunga homestead in Gokwe where President Mnangagwa was launching the Pfumvudza programme, extended to include cotton, itself a source of livelihood for millions across the country,” wrote the paper’s Political Editor.
So, while at the lower levels, there is the use of aid as a tool for coercion and the use of state security agents to harass and intimidate citizens, at the higher level, government has all but kitted up, ready to clip the wings of the very important civil society activity using the PVO Amendment Bill, which is being fast-tracked ahead of the potentially bruising 2023 elections. (See Section 5)
From November 25 to December 10, the world commemorates 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, and it is a tragedy that women are becoming more and more victims of rights violations. While in October, women made up 43 percent of victims, the number goes up to nearly 53 percent in November.
This is a worrying trend as Zimbabwe draws towards elections and history has shown that women tend to be on the receiving end of political violence. Once again, it is November all over again, and it appears when it comes to its human rights situation,
Zimbabwe is in a much worse situation than ever before.