|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Executive Summary of the Report of the
Fact-finding Mission to Zimbabwe
24th to 28th June 2002
Following widespread reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (African Commission) at its 29th Ordinary Session held in Tripoli from 23rd April to 7th may 2001 decided to undertake a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Zimbabwe from 24th to 28th June 2002.
The stated purpose of the Mission was to gather information on the state of human rights in Zimbabwe. In order to do so, the Mission sought to meet with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, law-enforcement agencies, the judiciary, political parties and with organised civil society organisations especially those engaged in human rights advocacy. The method of the fact-finding team was to listen and observe the situation in the country from various angles, listen to statements and testimony of the many actors in the country and conduct dialogue with the government and other public agencies.
1. The Mission observed that Zimbabwean society is highly polarized. It is a divided society with deeply entrenched positions. The land question is not in itself the cause of division. It appears that at heart is a society in search of the means for change and divided about how best to achieve change after two decades of dominance by a political party that carried the hopes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe through the liberation struggle into independence.
2. There is no doubt that from the perspective of the fact-finding team, the land question is critical and that Zimbabweans, sooner or later, needed to address it. The team has consistently maintained that from a human rights perspective, land reform has to be the prerogative of the government of Zimbabwe. The Mission noted that Article 14 of the African Charter states “The right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws”. It appears to the Mission that the Government of Zimbabwe has managed to bring this policy matter under the legal and constitutional system of the country. It now means that land reform and land distribution can now take place in a lawful and orderly fashion.
3. There was enough evidence placed before the Mission to suggest that, at the very least during the period under review, human rights violations occurred in Zimbabwe. The Mission was presented with testimony from witnesses who were victims of political violence and others victims of torture while in police custody. There was evidence that the system of arbitrary arrests took place. Especially alarming was the arrest of the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and journalists including Peta Thorncroft, Geoffrey Nyarota, among many others, the arrests and torture of opposition members of parliament and human rights lawyers like Gabriel Shumba.
4. There were allegations that the human rights violations that occurred were in many instances at the hands of ZANU PF party activists. The Mission is however not able to find definitively that this was part of an orchestrated policy of the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. There were enough assurances from the Head of State, Cabinet Ministers and the leadership of the ruling party that there has never been any plan or policy of violence, disruption or any form of human rights violations, orchestrated by the State. There was also an acknowledgement that excesses did occur.
5. The Mission is prepared and able to rule, that the Government cannot wash its hands from responsibility for all these happenings. It is evident that a highly charged atmosphere has been prevailing, many land activists undertook their illegal actions in the expectation that government was understanding and that police would not act against them – many of them, the War Veterans, purported to act as party veterans and activists. Some of the political leaders denounced the opposition activists and expressed understanding for some of the actions of ZANU PF loyalists. Government did not act soon enough and firmly enough against those guilty of gross criminal acts. By its statements and political rhetoric, and by its failure at critical moments to uphold the rule of law, the government failed to chart a path that signalled a commitment to the rule of law.
6. There has been a flurry of new legislation and the revival of the old laws used under the Smith Rhodesian regime to control, manipulate public opinion and that limited civil liberties. Among these, the Mission’s attention was drawn to the Public Order and Security Act, 2002 and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2002. These have been used to require registration of journalists and for prosecution of journalists for publishing “false information”. All of these, of course, would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression and introduce a cloud of fear in media circles. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act has been revived to legislate for the registration of NGOs and for the disclosure of their activities and funding sources.
7. There is no institution in Zimbabwe, except the Office of the Attorney General, entrusted with the responsibility of oversight over unlawful actions of the police, or to receive complaints against the police. The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent institution whose mandate was recently extended to include human rights protection and promotion. It was evident to the Mission that the office was inadequately provided for such a task and that the prevailing mindset especially of the Ombudsman herself was not one which engendered the confidence of the public. The Office was only about the time we visited, publishing an annual report five years after it was due. The Ombudsman claimed that her office had not received any reports of human rights violations. That did not surprise the Mission seeing that in her press statement following our visit, and without undertaking any investigations into allegations levelled against them, the Ombudsman was defensive of allegations against the youth militia. If the Office of the Ombudsman is to serve effectively as an office that carries the trust of the public, it will have to be independent and the Ombudsman will have to earn the trust of the public. Its mandate will have to be extended, its independence guaranteed and accountability structures defined.
8. The Mission was privileged to meet with the Chief Justice and the President of the High Court. The Mission Team also met with the Attorney General and Senior Officers in his office. The Mission was struck by the observation that the judiciary had been tainted and even under the new dispensation bears the distrust that comes from the prevailing political conditions. The Mission was pleased to note that the Chief Justice was conscious of the responsibility to rebuild public trust. In that regard, he advised that a code of conduct for the judiciary was under consideration. The Office of the Attorney General has an important role to play in the defence and protection of human rights. In order to discharge that task effectively, the Office of the Attorney General must be able to enforce its orders and that the orders of the courts must be obeyed by the police and ultimately that the profession judgement of the Attorney General must be respected.
9. The Mission noted with appreciation the dynamic and diverse civil society formations in Zimbabwe. Civil society is very engaged in the developmental issues in society and enjoys a critical relationship with government. The Mission sincerely believes that civil society is essential for the upholding of a responsible society and for holding government accountable. A healthy though critical relationship between government and civil society is essential for good governance and democracy.
In the light of the above findings, the African Commission offers the following recommendations -:
Further to the observations about the breakdown in trust between government and some civil society organisations especially those engaged in human rights advocacy, and noting the fact that Zimbabwe is a divided society, and noting further, however, that there is insignificant fundamental policy difference in relation to issues like land and national identity, Zimbabwe needs assistance to withdraw from the precipice. The country is in need of mediators and reconcilers who are dedicated to promoting dialogue and better understanding. Religious organisations are best placed to serve this function and the media needs to be freed from the shackles of control to voice opinions and reflect societal beliefs freely.
The African Commission believes that as a mark of goodwill, government should abide by the judgements of the Supreme Court and repeal sections of the Access to Information Act calculated to freeze the free expression of public opinion. The Public Order Act must also be reviewed. Legislation that inhibits public participation by NGOs in public education, human rights counselling must be reviewed. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act should be repealed.
Government is urged to establish independent and credible national institutions that monitor and prevent human rights violations, corruptions and maladministration. The Office of the Ombudsman should be reviewed and legislation which accords it the powers envisaged by the Paris Principles adopted. An independent office to receive and investigate complaints against the police should be considered unless the Ombudsman is given additional powers to investigate complaints against the police. Also important is an Independent Electoral Commission. Suspicions are rife that the Electoral Supervisory Commission has been severely compromised. Legislation granting it greater autonomy would add to its prestige and generate public confidence.
The judiciary has been under pressure in recent times. It appears that their conditions of service do not protect them from political pressure; appointments to the bench could be done in such a way that they could be insulated from the stigma of political patronage. Security at Magistrates’ and High Court should ensure the protection of presiding officers. The independence of the judiciary should be assured in practice and judicial orders must be obeyed. Government and the media have a responsibility to ensure the high regards and esteem due to members of the judiciary by refraining from political attacks or the use of inciting language against magistrates and judges. A Code of Conduct for Judges could be adopted and administered by the judges themselves. The African Commission commends to the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe for serious consideration and application of the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa adopted by the African Commission at its 33rd Ordinary Session in Niamey, Niger in May 2003.
Every effort must be made to avoid any further politicisation of the police service. The police service must attract all Zimbabweans from whatever political persuasion or none to give service to the country with pride. The police should never be at the service of any political party but must at all times seek to abide by the values of the Constitution and enforce the law without fear or favour. Recruitment to the service, conditions of service and in-service training must ensure the highest standards of professionalism in the service. Equally, there should be an independent mechanism for receiving complaints about police conduct. Activities of units within the ZRP like the law and order unit which seems to operate under political instructions and without accountability to the ZRP command structures should be disbanded. There were also reports that elements of the CIO were engaged in activities contrary to the international practice of intelligence organisations. These should be brought under control. The activities of the youth militia trained in the youth camps have been brought to our attention. Reports suggest that these youth serve as party militia engaged in political violence, The African Commission proposes that these youth camps be closed down and training centres be established under the ordinary education and employment system of the country. The Africa Commission commends for study and implementation the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (otherwise know as the Robben Island Guidelines) adopted by the African Commission at its 32nd Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia in October 2002.
A robust and critical media is essential for democracy. The government has expressed outrage at some unethical practices by journalists, and the Access to Information Act was passed in order to deal with some of these practices. The Media and Ethics Commission that has been established could do a great deal to advance journalistic practices, and assist with the professionalisation of media practitioners. The Media and Ethics Commission suffers from the mistrust on the part of those with whom it is intended to work. The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists could have a consultative status in the Media and Ethics Commission. Efforts should be made to create a climate conducive to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. The POSA and Access to Information Act should be amended to meet international standards for freedom of expression. Any legislation that requires registration of journalists, or any mechanism that regulates access to broadcast media by an authority that is not independent and accountable to the public, creates a system of control and political patronage. The Africa Commission commends the consideration and applications of the Declaration on The Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission in Banjul, October 2002.
The African Commission notes that the Republic of Zimbabwe now has three overdue reports in order to fulfil its obligations in terms of Article 62 of the Africa Charter. Article 1 of the Africa Charter states that State Parties to the Charter shall “recognise the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in the Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.” Article 62 of the Africa Charter provides that each State Party shall undertake to submit every two years “a report on the legislative or other measures taken, with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter.” The African Commission therefore reminds the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe of this obligation and urges the government to take urgent steps to meet its reporting obligations. More pertinently, the African Commission hereby invites the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to report on the extent to which these recommendations have been considered and implemented.
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Monday June 28th – Sunday July 4th 2004
Weekly Media Update 2004-26
2. CONTROVERSIAL BILL EXPOSES GOVERNMENT MEDIA
3. CONFUSION OVER FOOD SECURITY
1. GENERAL COMMENT
CIVIL society and opposition’s fears that next year’s 2005 parliamentary elections will not be free and fair as long as government refused to uphold the rule of law and create a conducive environment for all parties to campaign freely were confirmed by the violent attack on MDC leaders over the weekend.
SW Radio Africa, Studio 7 (2/7) and The Standard (4/7) reported that suspected ZANU PF militia had attacked them in Mvurwi, Mashonaland Central.
According to these media, unprovoked ZANU PF supporters, wielding iron bars, stones, knobkerries and some guns, pounced on MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and senior members of his party during a provincial assembly meeting.
Several MDC supporters were reportedly injured and property belonging to opposition activists was destroyed during the attack.
Radio Zimbabwe (2/7, 8pm) and The Herald (3/7) also reported the incident.
However, the version of the circumstances leading to the incident differed from those reported in the private media. They quoted the police blaming the MDC for the violence by claiming that the incident started when “MDC youths provoked ruling party youths who were on their way to Guruve by throwing two tear smoke canisters at their car”.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi’s claim that the alleged ZANU PF attack was an attempted assassination on Tsvangirai and that some MDC supporters had been seriously injured during the attack were only reported as part of the police’s denial of the allegations. To portray the MDC as a violent party, The Herald then selectively used two old episodes in which the opposition party allegedly perpetrated violence against ruling party supporters in Matabeleland.
However, while the government media tried to give the impression that the MDC was violent, SW Radio Africa and Studio 7 revealed otherwise. They carried about seven stories, including three fresh incidents, on human rights abuses and political violence allegedly perpetrated by ZANU PF activists against the opposition.
Predictably, the government media ignored such reports.
Rather, ZBC drowned its audiences with reports exalting the late vice president Joshua Nkomo as the architect of the unity and peace, which it claimed was prevailing in the country.
For example, ZTV allocated about 29 minutes or 16 percent of its 2 hours and 57 minutes allocated to its 8pm bulletins (excluding business, sport, and weather segments) to reports commemorating the life of Nkomo.
Further, its programmes were punctuated with excerpts of speeches made by Nkomo during the liberation struggle and after independence. In fact, this has been a feature of ZTV’s programmes for the past month.
In addition, ZTV broadcast live a government-sponsored 12 hour-long musical show held in Gweru as part of the commemorations.
THE government-controlled media’s obsession with peddling the official line while smothering critical viewpoints on issues of national importance continued during the week.
This was demonstrated by the way the government Press continued to gloss over the controversies surrounding government’s promulgation of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill, which largely re-enacts a presidential decree issued in February, as well as plans to reform the country’s electoral system.
ZBC totally ignored the issues.
In their coverage, the government Press merely endorsed government’s justification for such actions without balancing it with critical views from members of the civic society and the opposition MDC.
These only appeared in the private media.
In fact, the government media’s unwillingness to accommodate dissenting voices was summed up by the way they conveniently failed to divulge the reasons behind the ruling party MPs’ unprecedented refusal to endorse the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill the previous week.
Besides reporting the final passing of the Bill through the committee stage, The Herald (30/6) glossed over this rebellion and simply reported ZANU PF MPs as having “supported the improvements made to the Bill”.
The Bill, which finally sailed through parliament on July 1 after ZANU PF used its parliamentary numerical advantage to out-vote the opposition, mainly empowers the police to detain suspects accused of economic crimes under government’s new anti-graft drive for up to 21 days without trial.
Moreover, The Herald paid scanty attention to the MDC’s protests that the Bill would violate Zimbabweans’ basic rights such as the presumption of innocence.
Instead, it gave Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa more space to defend the proposed law, saying it was necessary “to stamp out corruption in our society”.
Said Chinamasa: “Unless we put the fear of God in our people, our country will be affected by corruption.”
While the government media remained reticent on the reasons behind the ZANU PF legislators’ sudden ratification of the Bill, The Zimbabwe Independent and SW Radio Africa (2/7) revealed that they only did so after being whipped into line by President Mugabe.
The Independent quoted an unnamed cabinet minister saying the rebellion by ZANU PF MPs took “centre stage” at a cabinet meeting where President Mugabe had then issued a “stern warning that anyone who opposed the Bill risked facing disciplinary action”.
In fact, the paper and The Financial Gazette (1/7) revealed that President Mugabe finally issued the ultimatum because the MPs had resisted earlier efforts to force them to toe the party line by boycotting an emergency caucus meeting called by the party’s chief whip, Joram Gumbo, to discuss the approval of the Bill.
Nevertheless, all private media did not fully scrutinise MDC legislators’ objections to the passing of the Bill especially their contention that it would also be used to stifle the activities of the opposition.
For instance, MDC MP David Coltart was merely quoted in the Independent saying, “The laws … would widely affect freedom of political activity in the run up to parliamentary elections in eight months.”
Coltart expressed similar views on Studio 7 (1/7).
Like the Independent, the station did not challenge Coltart to elaborate on the issue or independently establish the veracity of his claims.
The Daily Mirror (28/6) comment, For whom the bell tolls, was equally unhelpful on the matter. It simplistically attacked those opposed to the Bill as doing so because they were people “who do not have so clean consciences and hands” but failed to ask why the provisions of the Bill “would also be applied to security related crimes”.
Meanwhile, the government media’s passive endorsement of every government initiative was also evident in the manner they handled government’s proposed electoral reforms. They narrowly presented the proposed reforms as the only tonic for Zimbabwe’s electoral problems.
To reinforce this impression, they depicted civic organisations and the MDC’s tentative reception of the intended changes as unconditional acceptance of the reforms.
For example, while the Chronicle (30/6) quoted chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Lovemore Madhuku as saying the proposed changes to the electoral law were “what we have been clamouring for”, it did not allow him to explain his assertion that the proposals did not “address key issues in the constitution”.
An elaboration of this point appeared in The Daily Mirror (2/7). It quoted the NCA’s Fungayi Majome as saying the proposed changes were “meaningless” unless there was a comprehensive review of the Constitution, “which had to broaden the human rights discourse”.
One such Constitutional defect, pointed out Majome, was the fact that the “Executive Presidency can continue to appoint 20 percent of the MPs in Parliament in terms of Section 38 of the Constitution”.
Similar criticism of government’s planned electoral law reforms was also carried by The Financial Gazette, which cited several commentators describing the changes as incomprehensive because they did not address the “broader picture”.
Repressive laws such as POSA and AIPPA came under attack from the commentators. They believed that these laws “clearly violated basic human rights” and any electoral changes effected without addressing them would be “meaningless”.
For example, director of Women in Politics Support Unit Janah Ncube argued that setting up an independent electoral commission in itself did not translate to anything when POSA can still be used to bar people from meeting and while AIPPA still denied people the right to speak and to be heard.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi agreed. He was quoted on SW Radio Africa (28/7) saying “…Where POSA doesn’t allow people to meet freely wherever they want to and whenever they want to, a translucent ballot box is not the answer…”
But The Herald (3/7) remained gullible to government’s proposals.
It merely glorified the anticipated reforms by claiming that “Zimbabweans” had congratulated government for “taking the lead” in coming up with the proposals. In addition, it reported ZANU PF’s Central Committee members as saying its approval of the changes showed “the commitment of the party to the reforms, which are in line with the draft SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections”.
However, the paper failed to tell its readers what the SADC guidelines specifically entailed and to what extent the proposed reforms fell short or matched the guidelines.
Equally passive was The Sunday Mail (4/7). Like The Herald, it failed to relate the irony behind government’s purported good intentions to democratise the electoral laws in relation to President Mugabe’s reluctance to accept the MDC as a legitimate homegrown opposition party and his announcement that the government would not invite European and American election observers.
But while the official media implied that government had embarked on the reforms on its own volition, the Independent contended that it was actually pressure from “SADC that has almost certainly prodded the ruling party to accept the (electoral) changes that it has hitherto refused to contemplate”.
And as noted by civic and political analysts, the paper believed that the “poisonous political climate in Zimbabwe…renders any electoral reform pointless”.
In fact, such observations were vindicated by SW Radio Africa, Studio 7 (2/7) and The Standard (4/7) reports that ZANU PF supporters had attacked the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other top party officials in Mvurwi, Mashonaland Province, during a provincial meeting with the party’s local leadership.
Indeed the attack provided a higher moral ground for the MDC to demand more changes with its secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, telling The Standard: “There cannot be a likelihood of free and fair elections…when the situation is like this.”
THE confusion over Zimbabwe’s food security continued to hog the limelight in the media, with government officials and independent assessors still sending contradicting signals on the country’s food situation.
The private media continued to express the international donor agencies’ scepticism over government’s optimistic projections of a bumper harvest, especially after it barred UN agencies from making independent assessment of the country’s food production.
But instead of disproving the donor community’s fears of yet another poor harvest with scientific evidence, the government used its media to divert public attention from this critical issue by accusing the donor agencies of meddling in the country’s internal affairs using food as a political tool.
In fact, the Chronicle (28/6) and The Herald (29/6) merely carried a Press statement by the Social Welfare Ministry reaffirming an estimated harvest of “2,5 million tonnes of maize this year” by the country following “internal assessments” by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee. Thus, the country had “no need for continued food assistance from the international community”.
The Sunday Mail (4/7), ZTV (28/06, 8pm), Radio Zimbabwe and Power FM (29/06) did not fare any better.
For instance, the government weekly claimed that “contrary to reports in the media” people in Chiredzi West, one of Zimbabwe’s most drought-prone areas, had harvested enough maize this year “to see them through to the next season”.
The paper claimed to have seen “huge stocks of maize at almost every household” during a recent trip to the area. Two villagers and an unnamed Arex official were quoted lending credence to the story.
To further reinforce government’s claims of a bumper harvest, ZBC’s stations quoted the government run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Chief Executive Officer, Samuel Muvhuti, saying the volume of maize delivered to the parastatal was increasing daily and that they were receiving more than 5,000 tonnes every week. Thus, Muvhuti claimed, his Board had increased the number of maize collection points countrywide in order to cope with the increased delivery.
ZTV then quoted GMB Chairman Enoch Kamushinda saying, “We (GMB) want to make sure that never again will we have to ask for food from donors, we want our country to be self sufficient”.
However, a report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), carried by The Zimbabwe Independent (2/7) dampened such optimism. The paper quoted the group saying a number of southern African countries would face critical food shortages despite improved crop forecasts.
Fewsnet revealed that Zimbabwe was “a serious challenge” for food analysts because of its refusal to let UN agencies make crop assessments, and added that only South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique “expected to enjoy exportable surpluses”.
However, the government media ignored the report, choosing rather to politicise international humanitarian NGOs’ willingness to alleviate any possible food shortages in the country.
The Chronicle (28/6), for example, quoted Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo as directing provincial governors to “kick out” NGOs operating without permission, saying some of them were interfering with the country’s “internal affairs”.
Without providing any evidence to substantiate this claim, the paper (29/6) simply expanded on it saying some NGOs “have in the past been caught red-handed using food aid to coerce people into voting for opposition Movement for Democratic Change”.
In fact, government hostility towards food aid agencies seemed to reach a new level with revelations by The Daily Mirror (1/7) that Social Welfare Minister Paul Mangwana had told Parliament that government did “not intend to renew the memorandum of understanding” with the World Food Programme (WFP) because of “a surplus in grain production”.
The government media surprisingly ignored it.
Rather, they continued with their relentless bashing of NGOs. The Herald (3/7), for example, quoted President Mugabe accusing the country’s “detractors” of wishing to see the country in perpetual need of food assistance so that they “could profit politically from the much predicted collapse of the economy, which they calculated would lead to the collapse of government”.
Said Mugabe: “They insist we are or should be hungry and insist that they must feed us. They regard it as their right to feed us willy-nilly.”
The Zimbabwe Independent however highlighted some of the contradictions in government policy over the food issue when it reported the authorities as having asked WFP “to continue with targeted assistance for the foreseeable future”, saying 500,000 disabled people required assistance.
This confusion seemed to have rubbed off the Chronicle (28/6).
While the paper initially cheered government claims that it no longer needed food aid from the international donor community, it lamented that World Vision, one of the biggest charity organisations operating in the country, was scaling down operations and therefore exposing “ordinary people” to suffering.
It now claimed that World Vision was the “latest victim of sanctions” since it is “allegedly funded by the British and Americans, who have slapped Zimbabwe with the so-called targeted sanctions”.
The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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