In a statement released on February 10 – the eve of the shaky coalition’s first anniversary – Amnesty International said the government’s failure to bring to book human rights violators was “the culture of impunity that still threatens stability in the country”.
The organisation’s Africa Director Erwin van der Borght said delayed reforms have the situation in Zimbabwe fragile “as perpetrators continue to escape justice and are instead effectively given the all clear to continue violating human rights”.
“The Attorney General’s office, police and army have been left to freely violate human rights in pursuit of a political agenda,” said van der Borght.
Topping the list of rights violators are Zanu PF supporters, who have embarked on “ceaseless intimidation” of opposition supporters and rights activists in the rural areas.
“The government must end the incessant harassment of human rights activists and take steps to seriously protect rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Erwin van der Borght. “The onus is on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to ensure that key institutions under their control are reformed to end the culture of impunity that still threatens stability in the country.”
Over the last few weeks, there have been reports of Zanu PF supporters harassing villagers who are perceived to be against the heavily criticized Kariba draft constitution, particularly in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces.
The harassment is being done in similar fashion as in the run up to the June 2008 presidential election run-off, where hundreds of opposition supporters and rights activists were killed by Zanu PF militia, with the assistance of state security agents.
“These are early warning signs that the situation could deteriorate if no urgent measures are taken to stop state security agents from carrying out violent political campaigns,” said van der Borght, adding that there was need to investigate rights violations in the run-up to the presidential run-off.
But the government has shown reluctance to carry out any investigation, opting for a programme of National Healing instead.
“Zimbabwean state bodies are riddled with human rights abusers that in many cases carry out violations with impunity. Without genuine reform of institutions this abuse is very likely to persist,” said Erwin van der Borght.
In 2008, Jestina Mukoko and a number of other prominent rights defenders were abducted and charged with trumped up charges of terrorism and insurgency. Although they were released, they continue to be intimidated, with some of them – Emmanuel Chinanzvavana and Funny Tembo – being held by the police on what they say are trumped up suspicions that they kidnapped and murdered a ZANU PF councillor, Lancelot Zvirongwe.