At the height of various human rights violations in the country, Zimbabweans are calling for tolerance of divergent political views and peaceful co-existence. More than seven thousand human rights activists from around the city of Harare and under the banners of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition took to the streets on Saturday the 10th December, in commemoration of the United Nations International Human Rights Day. Zimrights is ActionAid International (AAI) partner in Zimbabwe.
A number of guests graced the event and some had an opportunity to give solidarity speeches. The guests included members of the civil society and high profile Government officials. Figured out among them included representatives from the Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Women Action Group (WAG), Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) Bulawayo Agenda and youth groups. Both ZPP and ZIMCODD are also AAI Zimbabwe partners.
The call for peaceful co-existence within the Zimbabwean boundaries dominated in the proceedings of the day. Speakers, notably Okay Machisa who doubles as the ZimRights Director and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson, took the opportunity to register displeasure with the performance of the coalition government. He also condemned state sponsored violence and cruelty and partisan operations of the police force and hinted that the behaviour amounts to human rights violations.
Two years into Zimbabwe's power-sharing government being run by the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC- T and MDC-M), widespread politically motivated abuses, including killings, torture, beatings, and other ill-treatment committed by uniformed forces, continue to reign in Zimbabwe.
There have been reports of several arrests and disappearances of human rights defenders, human rights violations in the Diamond-rich Marange Fields, arrests of journalists and use of repressive media laws. In Marange Fields, there are reports of uniformed forces continuing to perpetrate abuses, including forced labour, beatings, and harassment, which the government has failed to investigate or prosecute. State security agents have harassed local civil society organizations attempting to document smuggling and abuses in the Marange Fields. Journalists and media practitioners routinely face arrest for allegedly violating the state's repressive media laws. The journalists and media outlets have also been subjected to threats and harassment from the authorities and security forces, creating major obstacles to reporting on Zimbabwe's political system and continuing abuses by political parties.
The working environment for human rights defenders continues to be restrictive. For example, some women’s rights activists were arrested in Harare in September 2011 as they demonstrated against the lack of professionalism by the Zimbabwean police.
The South African government has deepened its engagement with the power-sharing government, but failed to make full use of its leverage to ensure meaningful human rights improvements. Despite visiting the country several times, President Jacob Zuma and his mediation team have failed to engage the power-sharing government on critical issues that include cessation of human rights abuses, institutional reform targeting constitutional and electoral processes, as well as security sector reform.