Human Rights Watch: World Report 2022


Zimbabwe Events of 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an International Non-Governmental Organisation that conducts Research and Advocacy on Human Rights as well as investigations and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. The group pressures governments, policy makers, companies, and individual human rights abusers to denounce abuse and respect human rights. Human Rights Watch publishes Reports on violations of international human rights norms as set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what it perceives as internationally accepted, human rights norms. These Reports are used as the basis for drawing international attention to abuses and pressuring governments and international organisations to reform.

Human Rights Watch in its Reports pays more attention to social and gender discrimination, torture, political corruption and abuses in criminal justice systems. The 2022 Human Rights Watch: World Report shows continuous human rights violations in Zimbabwe in its account of Events of 2021. The major human rights violation of concern highlighted in the Report are the abuses of citizens by security forces including arbitrary arrests, abductions, torture and rape. Other human rights concerns highlighted in the report include a severe water and sanitation crisis, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, forced evictions, and child marriages.

Confronting Past Abuses  

According to the Report, little effort has been made in taking meaningful steps to uphold human rights and ensure justice for serious abuses primarily committed by security forces in 2021. Abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses against citizens have not been meaningfully investigated. The government has yet to establish an independent complaint system, as provided for in Zimbabwe’s Constitution in a bid to receive and investigate public complaints against the security services. In the year 2021, authorities did not take concrete steps to ensure justice and accountability for serious abuses, most of which were committed by the security forces. President Mnangagwa appointed the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry to investigate the August 2018 post-election violence, which found that six people had died and 35 others were injured because of actions by state security forces. Yet, three years later, the authorities have not implemented the commission’s recommendations, including to hold to account members of the security forces responsible for abuses and for compensating the families of those killed or who lost property.

Right to Water and Sanitation  

As noted in the Report, hundreds of thousands of residents especially in Harare and Bulawayo continued to face a potable water crisis with the responsible authorities failing to ensure the provision of clean water. Several factors have contributed to the country’s severe water problems, including economic decay, perennial droughts, the lack of maintenance of the old water infrastructure, the inability to procure the necessary chemicals to treat water sources, and corruption.  The water crisis has affected the citizens’ rights to water and sanitation as entrenched in section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as well as other related rights, including the rights to life, food, and health. Many common water sources, namely shallow wells, taps, and boreholes—deep, narrow wells—are often contaminated. However, despite the known risk of contaminated water, there is no specific official information on which water sources are safe, leaving residents to take their chances.

Children’s Rights   

The 2021 Report highlights that there was failure by the authorities to fully enforce the ban on child marriages, exposing millions of underage girls to abuse. A landmark 2016 Constitutional Court decision declared child marriages unconstitutional and set 18 as the minimum marriage age for girls and boys, without exceptions. A 14-year-old girl who had been forced into marriage died during childbirth in July 2021, at a Marange Apostolic church, in Manicaland province, highlighting the high price girls pay for the practice of child marriage, which remains rampant in Zimbabwe. The practice is prevalent among Indigenous apostolic churches, an evangelical group that mixes Christian religious beliefs with traditional cultures and has millions of followers across the country.

Human rights violations are continuing despite Government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to promote and fulfil fundamental rights and freedoms through the adoption of the 2013 Constitution.  The continuous violation of the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Zimbabwe is an indication that the country is experiencing a Constitutional crisis. This further disrupts the very structure of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to the extent that it no longer effectively serves the basic intents and purposes that it is meant to serve. There is, therefore, a need for the strengthening of implementation mechanisms with regards to legal, institutional and policy frameworks that will act as safeguards in the realisation of the fundamental human rights of the people of Zimbabwe. There is also a need for political will by the Government towards the implementation of recommendations by international, regional and national human rights bodies which is key in ensuring redress in cases of human rights violations.





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