US digs at Mnangagwa govt

The US said throughout last year security forces used excessive force to apprehend, detain and interrogate criminal suspects.

THE United States of America (US) has accused the Zimbabwean government of lacking the political will to put behind bars human rights abusers after failing to “identify, investigate, or prosecute officials who may have committed human rights abuses”.

This comes after the country was earlier this year ranked among the world’s worst performers in terms of human freedom by the Human Freedom Index.

In their Zimbabwe 2023 Human Rights Report, the Joe Biden administration said significant human rights issues included 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.

“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,” reads the report.

“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 US said throughout last year security forces used excessive force to apprehend, detain and interrogate criminal suspects.

“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,” reads the report.

The report said prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, lack of water, lice infestations, shortage of blankets in the cold season, physical mistreatment of prisoners and lack of access to personal hygiene products, as well as inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

“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 report reads.

“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 US added: “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.”

The Biden administration described the August 2023 harmonised elections as not be fair and free of abuses and irregularities.

“The night of August 23, the ZRP conducted raids at two local observation-related centres, leading to the arrest of 35 members of the Election Resource Centre and Zimbabwe Election Support Network for allegedly planning ‘to illegally announce’ election results. The ZRP also confiscated computers and laptops and visited the homes of two local observers,” the US noted.

Both Information minister Jenfan Muswere and his secretary Nick Mangwana could not be reached for comment as they were not picking up calls by the time of going to print.

Zanu PF information director Farai Marapira demanded the US to substantiate its allegations.

“Accusations and observations unsubstantiated by verified facts serve to expose the speaker not the spoken of. The US needs to 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 on unfazed, unbothered and more resolute,” Marapira said.

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