Annual Report: Zimbabwe 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Zimbabwe 2011

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On the same day, Jenni Williams, WOZA National Coordinator, was arrested and detained for several hours at Harare Magistrates court as she tried to identify released activists who needed medical assistance. She was accused of "addressing a gathering in court" and was only released after signing a caution statement under protest.
  • In October, police attempted to revive a case against 14 WOZA activists who were arrested in May 2008 after attempting to hand over a petition at the Zambian embassy in Harare. However, only one of the 14 activists, Clara Manjengwa, received the summons. When she turned up at court on 21 October, there was no record of the case and it was not on the court register. There was no docket, no witnesses and even the police did not turn up. The Magistrate dismissed the case.
  • Freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly

    On 26 November, the Supreme Court ruled that the 2008 arrest and subsequent detention of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu after a peaceful demonstration was wrongful and that their rights and fundamental freedoms had been violated. The court also ruled that the state had failed to protect the two human rights defenders from abuse.

    There was partial reform of the media, with the ending of the state monopoly on daily newspapers. In May, four independent daily newspapers were licensed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission, including the Daily News which was banned in 2002. However, there was no progress in licensing private broadcasters.

    In February and October, a private member's bill to amend POSA was debated in Parliament. The bill, introduced by MDC-T Member of Parliament, Innocent Gonese, in November 2009, sought to amend sections of the POSA that have been used to curtail freedom of association and peaceful assembly. If it became law, the bill would limit police powers to arbitrarily ban demonstrations, and would enhance police accountability by requiring them to report to the Minister of Home Affairs and assembly organizers when force was used.

    Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

    On 21 May, police raided the offices of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organization in Harare and arrested two employees, Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi. They were held until 27 May when they were granted bail. The two GALZ employees were charged with possessing prohibited materials. They were both acquitted – Ignatius Mhambi in July and Ellen Chademana in December.

    Forced evictions

    May marked the fifth anniversary of the 2005 mass forced evictions known as Operation Murambatsvina. Five years on, the government failed to provide effective remedies for survivors living in appalling conditions on plots of land allocated by the government under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle – the government's programme to re-house some of the victims of Operation Murambatsvina.

    In most of the settlements, survivors were still living in worn-out shacks which had been provided as temporary shelter by humanitarian organizations. They often had no access to clean water, sanitation, health care, education or means of livelihood. The majority of the survivors of Operation Murambatsvina also lost their livelihoods during the mass forced evictions that directly affected 700,000 people.

    • In Hopley settlement, one of the Operation Garikai settlements in Harare, the health risks for pregnant women and newborn babies were increased by dire living conditions and lack of access to basic services including adequate health care. Survivors reported a high incidence of neonatal mortality, and said that contributing factors included lack of maternal and newborn health care services, prohibitive user fees and lack of transport for women in labour.

    Survivors of Operation Murambatsvina were also at risk of further forced eviction by the authorities.