Zimbabwe: African Human Rights Defenders Deeply Concerned About Gross Human Rights Violations in Zimbabwe Days to the General election of July 31

In the build-up to the upcoming elections to be held on 31 July 2013 in Zimbabwe the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRD – NET) is convinced that the general election is far from being held in a free environment that allows Zimbabwean citizens the opportunity to exercise their right to make political choices as guaranteed by the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in the Region.

Zimbabwe is a state party to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and recognizes the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in the Region.
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Both texts guarantee citizens’ rights to participate freely in elections and decision making processes.

Widespread reports of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture, assault and harassment of the opposition members, in particular, the MDC-T supporters.

MDC-T rallies are disrupted; campaign materials destroyed and burnt down by ZANU PF veterans and youth brigades who intimidate opposition supporters and force them to attend ZANU PF meetings. Supporters of the MDC –T including potential voters and candidates are reported to have received death threats.

Media reports indicate that state security officials have been seen forcing villagers to attend ZANU-PF meetings; the police inaction and failure to apprehend the perpetrators of violence and intimidation adds fuel to an already volatile situation.
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On July 22, Arnold Tsunga, an MDC –T candidate was arbitrarily arrested alongside 49 other members of his party.  Their lawyer claims his clients were subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and had to avoid further detention of two days by paying a fine of US$20 to an offence they did not commit. These Recent actions of the state security apparatus is an indicator of an intolerable political environment where the playing field is not level to hold a free and fair election.  There is growing disregard for the rule of law including flagrant violations of the rights of candidates and their supporters’ days to the election of July 31.

Such actions do not augur well for a country known to have suffered from post-electoral violence in the past and run contrary to Articles 6, 10, 11 and 13 of the African Charter which guarantee, personal liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of association and assembly and freedom to participate in government.

Besides the violence meted to the opposition by ZANU-PF supporters, reports of potential poll rigging by external actors brought in to manipulate the voting system is a cause for concern.

PAHRD-Net calls on the SADC Heads of State and Government and African Union to urge the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the liberty and security of all people of Zimbabwe including political contestants, opposition, supporters of ZANU PF and MDC –T are protected.
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Extremely concerned that one week to the elections, ZANU-PF veterans, youth cadres and village headmen continue to intimidate and threaten supporters of the MDC –T, PAHRD-Net call upon Zimbabwe authorities to ensure that the last week of the election is free from intimidation, harassment, destruction of opposition campaign posters, arbitrary arrest of opposition candidates and their supporters, and, to also ensure the prevalence of the rule of law and end violations of human rights and apprehend the perpetrators.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.