Zimbabwe News

USA criticises Mnangagwa govt’s human rights record

The United States of America has accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government of lacking the political will to “identify, investigate, or prosecute officials who may have committed human rights abuses”.

In its Zimbabwe 2023 Human Rights Report, the United States Government said significant human rights cases which include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, extrajudicial killings, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, have not been addressed. Reads the report:

The government did not take credible steps to identify, investigate, or prosecute officials who may have committed human rights abuses.

There were credible reports of human rights abuses by criminal gangs in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Authorities did not systematically investigate or prosecute such abuses.

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings, during the year.

On September 15, Persuade Mandara was reportedly killed in Mashonaland Central province by [the] Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

According to the Human Rights NGO Forum, officers investigating his connection with a grain theft case broke into Mandara’s home, assaulted him with burning logs that were being used for cooking, and fired gunshots.

The United States also alleged that throughout 2023, security forces used excessive force to apprehend, detain and interrogate criminal suspects. It said:

Police and military officers used excessive force and violent means to disperse peaceful demonstrations and to disrupt informal trading. Security forces often acted in the interest of the ruling party.

On January 14, members of the ZRP assaulted Kudzai Kadzere, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), in Budiriro while he was responding to a call for legal assistance by a group of opposition supporters.

ZLHR stated police officers used truncheons and fists to assault Kadzere, leading to injuries including a fractured hand.

The report also said prison conditions in Zimbabwe were harsh and life-threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, and lack of water.

It stated that Zimbabwe’s jails are infested with lice, there is a shortage of blankets in the cold season, and prisoners lack of access to personal hygiene products, as well as inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Reads the report:

The Constitution and law prohibited arbitrary arrest and detention, although other sections of the law effectively weakened these prohibitions. The government’s enforcement of security laws often conflicted with the constitution.

Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, particularly political and civil society activists, labour leaders, street vendors, and journalists perceived as opposing the government.

The government regularly used arbitrary arrest and detention as tools of intimidation and harassment, especially against opposition party members, political activists, civil society members, journalists, attorneys and ordinary citizens asserting their rights.

The United States also alleged that the Zimbabwean Government has continued to violate the property rights of citizens. It said:

The Constitution protected property rights, but the government frequently violated this right. On January 7, media reported two ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (Zanu-PF) activists seized a sugar plantation belonging to a white commercial farmer in Mwenezi, Masvingo province, leaving the owners and scores of workers and their children homeless.

Speaking to NewsDay, ZANU PF information director Farai Marapira demanded the US to provide evidence substantiating its allegations. He said:

Accusations and observations unsubstantiated by verified facts serve to expose the speaker not the spoken of. The US must lose agendarism [sic] and vindictive engagement with governments that refuse to cower before it.

We are undeterred in our mission to serve our people and the President’s doors remain open to genuine impartial overtures for engagement. In the absence of that, as ZANU PF we march unfazed, unbothered and more resolutely.

In March this year, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 11 Zimbabwean individuals including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who became the first sitting head of State to be designated by the US under its Global Magnitsky Programme early this year. They were designated for their alleged involvement in corruption and serious human rights abuse.

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