State agents behind half violations
Continuing the Zimbabwe Institute report on
human rights abuses experienced by opposition MPs and election candidates.
In reviewing the accounts that make up the
substance of this report, it is striking to note that 100% of MPs from whom
information was obtained - a figure that accounts for 85% of all opposition MPs
- report having experienced human rights abuses in the past four years. It is
clear that the primary motive for the attacks was political in nature (Chart
More than 90% of MPs report violations against themselves. 50% have
had their property vandalised or destroyed, including homes, businesses and
motor vehicles. What is of further grave concern is the very high number, in
excess of 60%, who report attacks on their immediate family or staff, resulting
death in 4 instances. Family members mentioned as immediately targeted or caught
up in household attacks, include elderly women, young children and even babies
of a few months old.
60% of MPs report arrest and detention, while 48%
report being formally charged. Whether finally charged or not, MPs were kept in
custody in appalling conditions often for periods of time that are in excess of
the 48 hours allowed by law. In 4 out of 5 cases, such detentions result in
charges being laid, yet in the vast majority of cases, courts do not uphold
State attempts to prosecute, but dismiss them before plea.
usually happens after MPs are remanded month after month while the State fails
to produce a case against them. In other instances, court cases result in
vindication of the accused MPs. At the ¬time of finalisation of this report on 8
March 2004, only once has an MP been found guilty of a crime and fined US$ 5.
This particular MP, Job Sikhala, reports being arrested 17 times. He
also reports being severely tortured in police custody, including receiving
electro shocks to his genitals. No prosecutions have been made in connection
with his torture – just as no prosecutions have been made in any instance of any
violation involving an MDC MP.
A further finding of interest is that
over the past four years, MPs are more likely to have been subjected to serious
attacks or crimes involving themselves personally than candidates. Only 45% of
candidates were interviewed, compared with information on 86% of MPs. These
patterns might shift with more information on candidates.
were more likely to report campaign violations and property loss than MPs, and
less likely to report assaults or torture. One might suspect violence before an
election affecting those wanting to stand, and this violence easing off after an
However, that is clearly not the case in Zimbabwe:
attacks intensified on individuals once they were in office, with no concern for
their status or role in government. Perhaps the attacks intensified because they
held high office and to attack an MP is to send a strong warning signal to
ordinary MDC supporters.
MPs are nearly twice as likely as candidates to
report assaults or torture (58% compared with 32%). Eight MPs reported torture,
whereas no candidate did so. However, some assaults against candidates were very
severe, and one candidate from 2000 was beaten to death in 2002.
50% of violations are attributed by MPs to the
police, CIO and army combined (Chart 2). This is an alarming statistic: what is
apparent is that it is not simply the case that the authorities turn a blind eye
to violations involving MPs, they are themselves the ones responsible in half
the instances. In the other half of instances, war veterans, ZANU (PF)
supporters and youth militia are the perpetrators – while the police look the
other way and refuse to arrest or prosecute.
MPs are also more than
three times more likely to report a state agency (ZRP/CIO/ZNA) as perpetrator
than candidates are (50% compared with 14%). Candidates are more likely to
report war veterans or ZANU (PF) supporters as the perpetrators. No candidate
reported the army as perpetrator, whereas 6% of MPs did so. MPs (60%) are 9
times more likely to have been arrested and detained than candidates (7%). Only
2 candidates reported being charged with a crime, whereas 24 MPs (48%) reported
More or less equal percentages of MPs (24%) and
candidates (22%) report surviving murder attempts. Candidates (14%) were twice
as likely as MPs (6%) to have had their houses entirely burnt to the ground.
Next week – the report investigates the trends in these human rights
violations over time.