Discord and mistrust within the Government of National Unity (GNU) continued to undermine delivery on key objectives of the Global Political Agreement. This led to severe delays in drawing up a new Constitution and implementing electoral, media and security reforms that would lead to elections. Elements within the security forces continued to exert pressure on the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties by ordering the arrest of senior party members or unlawfully disrupting their political activities. Human rights defenders were arrested, detained and tortured in police custody, especially in the aftermath of the protests in the Middle East and North Africa. The police continued to operate in a partisan manner, failing to take action against members of President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party when they harassed, intimidated or beat up perceived political opponents.
The GNU failed to complete the process towards establishing a new Constitution, which was running more than a year behind schedule. This was mainly due to inadequate funding of the Constitution process and squabbles between the parties in the unity government. ZANU-PF continued to resist security sector and media reforms that were agreed as part of the Global Political Agreement, which was signed by the three major parties in September 2008 and led to the creation of the unity government in February 2009. On 24 November, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe awarded commercial broadcasting licences to the state-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers Group and AB Communications. Both media houses were seen as close to ZANU-PF.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), through President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, continued to mediate between ZANU-PF and the two MDC political parties, who agreed on an election road map. However, the implementation of agreements was again hampered by suspicion and mistrust at the top levels of the government. In June, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba caused alarm when he was quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper, saying that ZANU-PF and the security forces were one and that the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, was a security threat.
On 31 March the SADC’s Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation called for an end to the violence in Zimbabwe, including arrests and intimidation of political opponents of ZANU-PF.
Talk of a possible election in 2011, mainly by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF members, increased tensions in rural and suburban communities mainly affected by the 2008 state-sponsored violence. There were reports of harassment and intimidation by ZANU-PF supporters against perceived opponents. In some areas this led to inter-party clashes. However, police appeared to only arrest opponents of ZANU-PF, leading to a perception that ZANU-PF supporters were above the law.
During the build-up to the congress of Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party (MDC-T) in Bulawayo in April, some party members were involved in violent clashes as they competed for positions. Clashes within the MDC-T were reported in Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Midlands provinces during provincial congresses.Top of page
Police used the Public Order and Security Act to undermine the political activities of the two MDC parties. Throughout the year they continued to interfere with their activities, blocking meetings or failing to act when ZANU-PF supporters attempted to disrupt meetings. In some instances police used excessive force, or threatened force, to block MDC meetings that had been sanctioned by the courts; no ZANU-PF meetings were blocked by the police. In instances of inter-party violence, police rarely arrested ZANU-PF supporters.
Chipangano, a gang linked to ZANU-PF, committed human rights abuses with total impunity in their base in Mbare and in other parts of Harare. On 23 July they invaded the Parliament building, disrupted a public hearing on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, and beat several people, including a member of Parliament and a journalist. No one was arrested despite the presence of the police. In October in Marondera and Mutare, groups of ZANU-PF supporters disrupted public consultations by Parliament on the Electoral Amendment Bill, causing further delays to the electoral reform process.
Politically motivated arrests of senior members of the MDC parties persisted. Scores of MDC supporters were also arrested, some spending months in custody on politically motivated charges. Similar arrests over the years have ended in acquittals or the dropping of charges.
Human rights defenders continued to face arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, politically motivated charges, and even torture in police custody. Community-based activists faced harassment and intimidation by members of ZANU-PF because of their human rights work. Such threats and intimidation increased as ZANU-PF started making pronouncements of a possible election in 2011.
On 19 February, Munyaradzi Gwisai and 44 other activists were arrested by police in Harare while holding a meeting to discuss the implications of the protests in Egypt and Tunisia. They were detained beyond the 48 hours allowed by law and, just minutes before being taken to court on 23 February, told that they were being charged with treason. They were denied medical treatment and access to their lawyers and some reported being tortured by police. Thirty-nine of the activists were acquitted on 7 March. The treason charges were dropped in July but they continued to face charges of “conspiracy to commit violence or alternatively inciting public violence or participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace and bigotry.”
On 28 February, seven members of the campaigning organizations Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Men of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested in Bulawayo. They were reportedly tortured at Bulawayo Central police station. Two days later they were released on US$50 bail and told to report to the police twice a week.
On 1 March, another 14 WOZA activists were arrested in Bulawayo while holding meetings on social issues. They were released the same day without charge.Top of page
The government failed to provide education for thousands of children affected by the 2005 mass forced evictions, known as Operation Murambatsvina. In Hopley and Hatcliffe Extension, two settlements created by the government to rehouse the victims of the evictions in Harare, more than 2,000 children were attending unregistered primary schools, in inadequate buildings without trained teachers or stationery. More than six years after the forced evictions, most victims have been driven deeper into poverty because of the government’s failure to find effective remedies.Top of page
Persecution of people based on their sexual orientation continued.
In October, Morgan Tsvangirai said in an interview with the BBC that he supported the rights of gay people. He was criticized by the state-controlled media, who tried to politicize the statement and incite hatred against “homosexuals”.Top of page