Mistrust between members of the Government of National Unity (GNU) continued to delay crucial reforms agreed under the 2008 Global Political Agreement between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the two Movement for Democratic Change parties (MDC-T and MDC-N). Talk of an election in the second half of the year caused panic in rural areas affected by the 2008 election-related, state-sponsored violence. Police continued to suppress free expression, association and assembly throughout the year, through arbitrary arrest, unlawful detentions and politically motivated prosecutions.
The GNU failed to finalize a new Constitution, which is crucial if the country is to hold violence-free elections in 2013. The second All Stakeholders Conference to review a draft was held in October, when ZANU-PF tried to reverse new elements that would restrict executive powers and strengthen the declaration of rights agreed during the inter-party negotiation process. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), represented by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, achieved no meaningful reforms to guarantee non-violent elections, despite several visits to Zimbabwe by his facilitation team.
Remarks by senior leaders of the army, police and intelligence services stating their preferred election outcome fuelled fears that the security forces – which had been implicated in the 2008 election violence – would again try to influence the next election in favour of ZANU-PF. President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai publicly spoke out against political violence; however, no concrete measures were taken to end partisan activities of the security forces.
Although incidents of mass political violence remained low, mainly because there were no major political events in the year, at least 300 people were injured as a result of politically motivated acts of torture or other violence.Top of page
Human rights defenders and political activists – other than ZANU-PF members – continued to operate under heavy restrictions. In urban areas, police were the main perpetrators, using the Public Order and Security Act to arbitrarily limit the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including by blocking legitimate meetings and activities of human rights defenders and other political parties. In semi-urban and rural areas, local ZANU-PF activists continued to disrupt legitimate activities of their opponents with impunity. Some traditional leaders were also used by ZANU-PF to restrict access to rural areas. Incidents of uniformed soldiers assaulting people attending meetings organized by the two MDC parties were recorded.
Throughout the year, activists from the activist organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) had their activities routinely disrupted by anti-riot police. Many were beaten and some sustained injuries. At least 200 arrests of WOZA members were recorded.
Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act continued to be applied arbitrarily, with political activists and others being charged with “undermining the authority of or insulting the President”. At least 12 people were arrested on these charges.
At least eight people died in police custody under circumstances that suggest that they were tortured or summarily executed.
Seven years on, tens of thousands of people affected by the 2005 mass forced evictions Operation Murambatsvina still lived in settlements with no schools, health care, water, sanitation or roads. Despite public acknowledgement by authorities of the lack of schooling in particular, no measures were taken to ensure the thousands of affected children can access free primary education.Top of page
Hostility directed at non-gender-conforming individuals and discrimination against LGBTI people continued to be rife in the country. The media contributed to public prejudices against LGBTI individuals by publishing hostile comments about LGBTI people made by political leaders, particularly within the context of debate around the new Constitution. ZANU-PF and MDC-T accused each other of “harbouring” LGBTI people. Politicization of the debate on outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity fuelled harassment and intimidation of LGBTI people by police.