Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 13:56 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Zimbabwe

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Zimbabwe, 6 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e16d3551a.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Despite hopes that the formation of the 2009 coalition government would lead to political stability and constitutional reform, Zimbabwe continued to be affected by political turmoil throughout 2010.

In April 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report detailing the 'illusion of reform' in Zimbabwe. The organization expressed concerns over the continued 'lack [of] both political freedom and accurate, non-partisan information about the state of the country and the activities of government'.

In the past, political affiliation was largely determined by ethnicity, as ZANU-PF, President Robert Mugabe's political party historically represented the interests of the Shona majority ethnic group. Due to the gross mistreatment of Ndebele in the past by Mugabe and the ZANU-PF, the Ndebele minority group was represented by political parties like the now defunct ZAPU party. Although the relationship between political affiliation and ethnicity is no longer as overt, tensions between the two ethnic groups remain. It is difficult, though, to separate violence that occurs along ethnic lines from violence that occurs along political lines.

In the months leading up to the World Cup (that began in July 2010), civil society groups expressed outrage at the government's decision to let the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) football team train in Zimbabwe. North Korea was involved in the training of the Fifth Brigade, a group responsible for killing over 20,000 Ndebele during the 1980s. The action showed a great insensitivity of the government towards Ndebele concerns; however, the tourism minister maintained that this was a sporting, not a political matter. In May 2010, it was announced that the North Korean team had cancelled their scheduled stay in Zimbabwe.

In December 2010, a new party was launched, the Mthwakazi Liberation Front. The party has been identified as an Ndebele nationalist party, and seeks to represent the region of Matabeleland, the Ndebele home region. It is unclear if they will be participating in the forthcoming elections announced for 2011.

A 2010 report on international religious freedom published by the US Department of State showed a continuation of violence against Anglicans. Anglicans were arrested, harassed and denied access to their church buildings throughout the year. In May 2010, more than 2,000 Anglicans were barred by the police from attending a special service for Pentecost in the main cathedral in Harare. The report also mentions rising tensions between African Independent/Initiated Churches (AIS) members and Anglicans, due to religious practices such as polygamy. The relationship between the AIS community and Anglicans became particularly strained in Chipinge, a community near the border with Mozambique, as the exacerbation of a measles outbreak was blamed on the AIS community for not vaccinating their children. A health official interviewed by the UN news agency IRIN confided that the government was working on regulations to make it an offence for parents to deny their children vaccinations against 'killer' diseases.

In 2010, a South African court ruled unlawful the violent land grabs that had occurred in Zimbabwe against white minority farmers. The papers to a house owned by the Zimbabwean government in Cape Town were given to the plaintiffs as compensation. Although any money received from the sale of the house will go towards legal fees, the ruling creates a precedent for farmers who lost property in Zimbabwe to file for compensation in South African courts.

Like Botswana, Zimbabwe has a dual legal system, supporting both common and customary law. Although common law protects the rights of women in some respects, gender equality is undermined by customary law. Forced and early marriages under customary law are common, women are considered to be minors, widows are not allowed to inherit property from their husbands, and daughters are only allowed to inherit property from their fathers if there are no sons. Additionally, the custom of the bride price, also known as lobola or bogadi, is protected by common law and continues to stigmatize women.

Political instability has had a negative impact on the well-being of women in Zimbabwe. Violence against women, particularly rape, is a common tool used to intimidate women who support political opposition groups. Women in rural areas are also particularly vulnerable. Violence is predicted to escalate in 2011 if the proposed elections go ahead; such political unrest will continue to put those who oppose Robert Mugabe's rule at risk.

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