Zimbabweans are marking forty-three years of independence from colonial rule amid the reality of a rapidly shrinking civic space, including criminalization of dissent and targeting of political activists and human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.
Forty-three years after independence, authorities are yet to guarantee in practice the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.Flavia Mwangovya, Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Amnesty International
“Forty-three years after independence, authorities are yet to guarantee in practice the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly which are increasingly being threatened despite being guaranteed under the constitution and international law,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa.
“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly has continuously been violated and undermined with the authorities refusing to give clearance for some of the main opposition party’s rallies, arresting and convicting peaceful protesters and using unnecessary and excessive force to stop protests.
“As Zimbabwe approaches elections later this year, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly have come under increasing attack. Dissenting voices are being criminalized, with some opposition activists put in lengthy pre-trial detentions.” said Flavia Mwangovya.
Authorities must stop criminalizing dissent and ensure the levelling of the playing field as the country fast approaches the elections.Flavia Mwangovya
“Authorities must stop criminalizing dissent and ensure the levelling of the playing field as the country fast approaches the elections. The opposition must be free to carry out their campaigns and individuals and groups must be protected from politically motivated violence.
“Authorities must promote, protect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as guarantee the socio-economic rights of every Zimbabwean.”
Zimbabwe gained independence from the British colonial rule on 18 April 1980. Today marks forty-three years of independence. However, as Amnesty International’s 2022/23 annual report highlights, there has been a worrying trend toward the closing of civic space in Zimbabwe, with the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly being threatened. Members and supporters of the main opposition party have been violently attacked at political rallies.
Protests have been effectively banned as demonstrated by the arrest and detention of Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole on charges of inciting violence, the arrest of 19 students at the University of Zimbabwe in September 2022 after they embarked on peaceful #FeesMustFall demonstrations, the conviction of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes following their peaceful protest, and more recently, the conviction of Fadzayi Mahere for “publishing or communicating falsehoods” based on a law that is no longer existent in Zimbabwe, after she posted a video on Twitter alleging that a police officer had killed a baby.