The Chairperson of the African Union
African Union Headquarters
P.O. Box 3243,
W21K19 Addis Ababa,
The Deterioration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe
We address you as the Chairperson of the African Union, the organisation founded on the fundamental ideals of Ubuntu and the custodian of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Ever since the start of Zimbabwe’s national lockdown, the country has seen protests by activists and healthcare personnel over the country’s poor response to Covid-19, and lack of care to the vulnerable in society. The country is facing one of its worst economic crises in more than a decade, marked by inflation running above 700%, acute shortages of foreign currency and public hospitals crippled by strikes and a lack of medicine. An estimated 90% of Zimbabweans are experiencing food shortages and food insecurity.
Zimbabwean police have arrested over 105 000 people since March for allegedly violating Covid-19 restrictions.
In May, opposition Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe, along with Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, were arrested at a roadblock guarded by police and soldiers, where they were abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted.
On 6 July, 13 nurses were arrested at Sally Mugabe Hospital in Harare for protesting and demanding better wages and working conditions.
Ahead of a planned mass public gathering against corruption on 31 July, Chin’ono was arrested at his home in Harare on 20 July after he reported on allegations involving US$60 million in state corruption.
A day later, activist Jacob Ngarivhume of the Transformation Zimbabwe non-profit, suspected of being one of the organisers of the 31 July protests, was also arrested.
On Friday, 31 July, Zimbabwean businesses were closed and streets deserted in the capital Harare early on as security forces increased patrols to stop anti-government protests called by activists over corruption and economic hardship.
Security forces also increased checkpoints on roads leading to central Harare which led to a number of arrests.
In central Harare and nearby Mbare township – a hotbed of past protests – businesses, including banks and supermarkets, were shut as police and soldiers patrolled the streets.
President Mnangagwa described the planned protests as an “insurrection” by the opposition.
Amnesty International said a number of activists went into hiding ahead of the protest after police published a list of names of that human rights defenders wanted for questioning in connection with the planned protests.
The increased police presence largely halted the planned protest, however, some individuals bravely defied the banning order and were arrested.
This included opposition party MDC’s spokesperson Fadzai Mahere and Henry Chivanga – an activist fighting for the rights of people with disabilities – both were arrested.
The Zimbabwean people have experienced a systematic attack on their basic rights with the government unlawfully imposing a ‘de facto’ state of emergence and deploying soldiers and police to terrorize civilians.
Your Excellency, this state of affairs is contrary to the African Union’s Agenda which is a vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, and the crucial goal of silencing all guns by 2020 in Africa.
At least 81 people have been shot by the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police and have had to undergo surgery.
Zimbabwe as a member of the African Union is bound by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Zimbabweans have the right to enjoy the rights guaranteed in the African Charter. While article 3 of the African Charter guarantees that every one is equal before the law, and must enjoy equal protection of the law.
The Zimbabwean Government has violated this Charter by unlawfully imposing the state of emergency and deploying the military without following due process. To date, over 800 Zimbabweans including about 40 minors, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without due process.
The method of arrest and detention that was used by the army and police force amounted to arbitrary arrests and detention, a crackdown as opposed to law enforcement. Not only are people being arrested and detained unlawfully, but they are also being subject to rape, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 5 of the African Charter.
Armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture. The torture was organised. Over 500 people have been subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatments.
Your Excellency, the violations being experienced by Zimbabweans are so gross we are not only convinced that these are crimes against humanity, but they are in sharp contrast to what the African Union stands for and the spirit of Ubuntu.
The African Union is called to stand with the victims of state brutality in Zimbabwe and safeguard the values upheld by the African Charter – the values of life, human dignity and standing up for the weak on our continent.
It is with these in mind your Excellency, that we call upon the African Union to do the following:
- Condemn in the strongest terms the violations of human rights in Zimbabwe.
- Set up a special committee of the African Union on Rights of Women in Africa to investigate reports of rape of women in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe National Army.
- Request the government of Zimbabwe to end the de-facto state of emergency, withdraw all soldiers from the streets, and release all victims of arbitrary arrests.
- Request the government of Zimbabwe to cease with immediate effect all attacks on civil society leaders and political activists that have been targeted since 2019.
- Support the efforts of the Zimbabwean people to initiate an inclusive national dialogue process to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Your Excellency, we believe that Zimbabwean Lives Matter, we believe in a Free Zimbabwe . There is hope that Africa can solve its own problems and there is no better platform than the African Union can be an inspiration to assist the people of Zimbabwe. We look forward to your positive intervention to stop the violations of human rights in Zimbabwe.