Monday, September 18, 2006

PDF report on Zim by Freedom house

an excerpt: Zimbabwe

GNI/capita: $490
Life Expectancy: 41
Religious Groups: Syncretic [part Christian, part indigenous beliefs] (50 percent), Christian (25
percent), indigenous beliefs (24 percent), other [including Muslim] (1 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Shona (82 percent), Ndebele (14 percent), other (4 percent)
Capital: Harare

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6

Trend Arrow:
Zimbabwe received a downward trend arrow due to increased violations of
democratic norms and human rights offenses.

Ratings Timeline (Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
5,5,PF 5,5,PF 5,5,PF 6,5,PF 6,5,PF 6,6,NF 6,6,NF 6,6,NF 7,6,NF 7,6,NF

Zimbabwe's descent into the ranks of the world's most repressive states continued
unabated in 2005, the result of a significant decline in both political rights and civil liberties for
Zimbabweans. The government of long-time president Robert Mugabe persisted in cracking down
on independent media, civil society, and political opponents. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union­Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won an overwhelming victory in a deeply flawed
parliamentary election held in March, allowing the passage of a heavy-handed Constitutional
Amendment Bill in September. Beginning in May 2005, the government ordered the destruction of
tens of thousands of shanty dwellings and street stalls in urban townships across the country. The
implementation of this policy--labeled Operation Murambatsvina--left an estimated 700,000
people homeless, deprived of their livelihood, or both, and adversely affected some 2.4 million
additional people. Low voter turnout and a severely fractured opposition marked elections to a new
Senate in November; ZANU-PF virtually swept the elections, fortifying its control of the already
pliant legislature. The country's economic crisis worsened, with rampant inflation, massive
unemployment, near expulsion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and potentially
severe shortages of basic foodstuffs.

In November 2005, the UN World Food Program warned that more than 4 million of the
country's 12 million people require emergency food aid; Zimbabwe--once one of Africa's major
sources of agricultural exports--began a massive program to import 1.8 million tons of maize in
July of that year. While the government has historically blamed food shortages on droughts,
Deputy Agricultural Minister Sylvester Nguni told a November meeting of the Zimbabwe
Farmers' Union that distributing seized land to incompetent farmers was also to blame. Party
officials have manipulated the dispersal of food aid, withholding relief from suspected
opposition supporters. Fears of food shortages have led many urban dwellers to ignore a
government prohibition on growing crops in urban areas. Severe shortages of drugs and
equipment have pushed hospitals and clinics close to ruin. Infant mortality rates have risen, and
the resource-starved health system cannot cope with an HIV epidemic--one of the worst in the
world--that has infected one in four adults.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Citizens of Zimbabwe cannot change their government democratically. Recent
presidential and legislative elections have been marred by political violence and intimidation
(perpetrated by both security forces and ZANU-PF youth militias), a discriminatory electoral
framework, biased media coverage, and the unscrupulous use of state resources. President Robert
Mugabe and ZANU-PF have dominated the political landscape since independence. Since 1980,
at least 16 amendments to the constitution--including the elimination of the post of prime
minister in favor of an executive president--have expanded executive power. Mugabe has on
several occasions invoked the Presidential Powers Act, which enables him to bypass normal
governmental review and oversight procedures. Presidential elections are held every six years.
Until recently, Zimbabwe had a unicameral legislature. In September 2005, an upper
house Senate--previously disbanded via a 1987 constitutional amendment--was created by yet
another such amendment and consists of 50 directly elected seats, 6 presidential appointees, and
10 traditional chiefs. The lower House of Assembly includes 120 elected seats and 30 seats filled
by Mugabe appointees; elections are held every five years. ZANU-PF loyalists make up 72
percent of the House of Assembly and over 89 percent of the Senate.
The rise of the MDC had until recently represented a significant oppositionist force in
Zimbabwe. However, the party's electoral defeat in March was followed by a major internal
crisis, catalyzed by a debate over whether the MDC should contest elections for the newly
created Senate in November. Defying party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's call for a boycott, 26
MDC members registered as candidates; the crisis was marked by serious discord among the
party's leadership and the expulsion of the 26 dissident members from the party. As a result, the
MDC no longer poses a serious threat to ZANU-PF's hold on power.
Corruption is rampant throughout the country, including at the highest levels of
government. A profound lack of transparency in government tenders and other operations has
allowed corruption to thrive. Patronage is crucial to ZANU-PF's grip on power, and the party
owns a wide-range of businesses that profit party elites; ruling party and government officials
have been allocated many of the properties seized from white farmers. Anticorruption
prosecutions are almost exclusively motivated by political vendettas. Reports of extensive
corruption and nepotism have contributed to the stark decline in public and investor confidence
in Zimbabwe's economy. Zimbabwe was ranked 107 out of 159 countries surveyed in
Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of expression and of the press deteriorated still further in 2005. Zimbabwe's
already draconian legal framework was worsened by the enactment in January of an amendment
to the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and a new Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Bill in June. Whereas the original AIPPA required all journalists
and media companies to register with the government-controlled Media and Information
Commission (MIC) and gave the information minister sweeping powers to decide who can work
as a journalist, the amended version introduced prison sentences of up to two years for journalists
working without accreditation. The Daily News--the country's only independent daily shuttered
in 2003 for not adhering to the AIPPA--continued to be denied a license by the MIC in 2005.
Constitutional challenges to the AIPPA by the affiliates of the Daily News have proven
unsuccessful; the Supreme Court upheld the law for the second time in March. However, a
Harare magistrate acquitted former Daily News journalist Kelvin Jakachira of working without
accreditation; at least eight of his colleagues are facing similar charges.
The MIC ordered the closure of the independent Weekly Times in March for violating the
AIPPA after only eight weeks of publication, and denied Africa Tribune Newspapers--
publishers of the previously shuttered weekly Tribune (2004)--a license to resume publication in
July. Authorities use a range of restrictive legislation--including the Official Secrets Act, the
AIPPA, and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA)--to harass journalists. Section 15 of
POSA and Section 80 of AIPPA criminalize the publication of "inaccurate" information, and
both laws have been used to intimidate, arrest, and prosecute journalists. The new Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Bill increases prison sentences for similar violations to a maximum of
20 years.
The government dominates the print and broadcast media; coverage in state-controlled
dailies such as The Chronicle and The Herald consists of favorable portrayals of Mugabe and the
ruling ZANU-PF party and attacks on government critics. The state-controlled Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) runs all broadcast media, which are seen as mouthpieces of the
regime, and the prohibitive costs of satellite services that provide international news
programming place them out of reach for most Zimbabweans. While the MDC was granted
relatively greater access to these media in the run-up to the March 2005 elections, that month the
government--using Chinese technology--began jamming the shortwave signal of the London-
based oppositionist radio station SW Radio Africa, forcing it to switch frequencies. A similar
fate befell the independent radio station Voice of the People in September.
Journalists are routinely subjected to verbal intimidation, physical attacks, arrest and
detention, and financial pressure at the hands of the police, authorities, and supporters of the
ruling party. Foreign journalists are regularly denied visas to file stories from Zimbabwe, and
local correspondents for foreign publications, particularly those whose reporting has portrayed
the regime in an unfavorable light, have been refused accreditation or threatened with lawsuits
and deportation. In February, three such correspondents--Angus Shaw, Brian Latham, and Jan
Raath--fled the country after extensive harassment by authorities, while another, Cornelius
Nduna, was forced into hiding and hunted by the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) for
possessing video footage of paramilitary activities at youth training camps. Internet access is
relatively free, although the government does monitor e-mail content.
Freedom of religion is generally respected, but academic freedom is limited. Security
forces and ruling party thugs harass dissident university students, who have been arrested or
expelled from school for protesting against government policy. In 2004, the president of the
Zimbabwe National Students Union, Philani Zamchiya, claimed to have been kidnapped and
assaulted by police. The Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in September 2005 brings all
schools under state control.
The nongovernmental sector is small but active; however, NGOs--particularly those
dealing with human rights issues--have faced increasing legal restrictions and extralegal
harassment. As a result, mass action campaigns organized by the MDC after the March 2005
elections and by the umbrella National Constituent Assembly and the MDC following Operation
Murambatsvina failed to gain much traction. Public demonstrations and protests are severely
restricted under the 2002 POSA, which requires police notification--in practice, police
permission--to hold public meetings and demonstrations. Such meetings are often deemed
illegal and broken up, subjecting participants to arbitrary arrest by security forces (including
intelligence officers) and attacks perpetrated by ZANU-PF militias. POSA also allows police to
impose arbitrary curfews and forbids criticism of the president.
In 2005, security forces continued to disrupt demonstrations by the Women of Zimbabwe
Arise (WOZA) group and arrest demonstrators; in two years of protests, some 500 WOZA
activists have been detained for violating the POSA. The Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO)
Act, originally introduced by the Rhodesian government and revived in 2002, sets out restrictive
registration and funding requirements for NGOs. In December 2004, the parliament passed the
Non-Governmental Organizations Act. The NGO Act retains the PVO Act's more repressive
provisions while increasing scrutiny of groups that "promote and protect human rights" and
explicitly prohibiting these groups from receiving foreign funding. Following the model of the
MIC, the act also establishes an NGO Council with which organizations must register or risk
criminal charges. While Mugabe has yet to sign the legislation, in 2005 the government
threatened several NGOs with sanctions if they did not account for $88 million in donor funds
received in 2004.
The right to collective action is limited under the Labor Relations Act, which allows the
government to veto collective bargaining agreements that it deems harmful to the economy.
Strikes are allowed except for industries declared "essential" under the act. Because the labor
movement provides the most organized resistance to Mugabe's authoritarian rule, it has become
a particular target for repression. Mugabe has used his presidential powers to declare strikes
illegal, and labor organizers are common targets of government harassment. In 2003, security
forces arrested more than 400 people in response to a two-day general strike; many were beaten
or tortured while in police custody. In November 2005, the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions (ZCTU)--among at least 80 union activists--was detained by security forces in
Harare and Bulawayo for violating the POSA. The government has created a rival trade union
umbrella organization, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, to try to undermine the
While some courts have struck down or disputed government actions, increasing pressure
by the regime has substantially eroded the judiciary's capacity to act independently. The accused
are often denied access to counsel and a fair, timely trial. However, several journalists have
recently been acquitted of criminal charges by magistrates, as have several MDC activists. MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai was acquitted of treason charges in December 2004 by the high court,
and another set of treason charges was dropped in August 2005. Nonetheless, the government
has repeatedly refused to enforce court orders and has replaced senior judges or pressured them
to resign--including former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay--by stating it could not guarantee
their security. The judicial system has been burdened by the vacancy of nearly 60 magistrate
posts, which has caused a backlog of some 60,000 cases that require processing. In October, the
head of the magistrates' association, Enias Magate, stated that judges' low pay was exacerbating
already substantial judicial corruption.
In general, security and military forces are accountable to the government but not to
civilians. Security forces often ignore basic rights regarding detention, search, and seizure. The
government has taken no clear action to halt the rising incidence of torture and mistreatment of
suspects held by police or security services. War veterans and ZANU-PF militants operate as de
facto enforcers of government policies--including land redistribution--and have committed a
litany of human rights abuses, such as assault, torture, rape, extralegal evictions, and extralegal
executions, within an environment of almost total impunity. The military has assumed increased
roles in food distribution and "securing" elections. In June 2004, the government passed the
Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act, which allows police to hold suspects accused
of economic crimes for up to four weeks without bail; human rights activists contend this act
contravenes the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence.
Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. The country's 47 prisons house about
22,000 inmates, 6,000 above the nominal 16,000-person capacity. Such overcrowding has
contributed to a rise in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis infections and to food shortages. Deaths in
prisons are often caused by disease, poor sanitation, or beatings by guards. Women and juveniles
are housed separately from men, and pretrial detainees are generally held in separate, common
The state has extensive control over travel and residence, and property rights are not
respected in Zimbabwe. Operation Murambatsvina saw the eviction of hundreds of thousands of
urban dwellers from their homes and the destruction of thousands of homes and businesses,
many of which had been approved by the government. Fewer than 500 white-owned farms
remain out of the 4,500 that existed when the land invasions started in 2000; any avenues of legal
recourse for expelled farmers were closed with the enactment of the Constitutional Amendment
Bill in September. The same bill formalized travel restrictions for regime opponents. Foreign
critics are routinely expelled or prevented from entering the country.
The ruling party, which is dominated by the Shona majority ethnic group, continues to
encourage political and economic discrimination against the minority Ndebele people. A clash
between the two ethnic groups in the 1980s culminated in the government's massacre of
thousands of Ndebele. Today, the Ndebele tend to be marginalized politically, and their region
(Matabeleland, which is an opposition stronghold) lags behind in economic development.
According to the U.S. State Department 2005 Human Rights Report, the disproportionate
number of Shona-speaking educators in Matabeleland schools is a sensitive issue. In addition,
restrictive citizenship laws discriminate against Zimbabweans whose origins are in neighboring
African countries. Despite government efforts to the contrary--including explicitly racist
justifications for land seizures--relations between the remaining white minority and the black
majority are relatively peaceful.
Women enjoy extensive legal protections, but de facto societal discrimination and
domestic violence persist. Women serve as ministers in national and local governments, and hold
seats in parliament; Joyce Mujuru is vice president of Zimbabwe and a possible successor to
Mugabe. ZANU-PF youth militias use rape as a political weapon. The prevalence of customary
laws in rural areas undermines women's rights and access to education. Traditional practices
such as polygamy and lobola--the negotiated price a groom must pay to marry a bride--remain
legal, and there were reports of girls being offered as settlements in interfamily disputes. The
Supreme Court declared that women who marry under customary law must leave their original
families and therefore cannot inherit their property, and married women cannot hold property
jointly with their husbands. A December 2004 report from UNICEF noted the lacuna between
the litany of laws relating to women's and children's rights and the weak implementation of
those laws. Homosexuality--decried as un-African by Mugabe--is illegal in Zimbabwe.

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