U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Zimbabwe
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Zimbabwe, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1f28.html [accessed 22 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
ZIMBABWEPresident Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) have dominated the legislative and executive branches of Zimbabwe's Government since independence in 1980. The Constitution allows for multiple parties; in addition to ZANU-PF, there are a large number of smaller parties. However, they are poorly organized and led, poorly financed, and subject to periodic intimidation by the ruling party and Government security forces. Late in 1997, the Parliament amended the election laws to allow for increased access to funding for opposition candidates, and this action should increase the size of the electorate; these changes will go into effect in early 1998. The judiciary is independent, but the Government occasionally refuses to abide by court decisions. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are responsible for maintaining law and order. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force are responsible for external security. The Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) under the Ministry of State Security is responsible for internal and external security but no longer has powers of arrest. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. Zimbabwe's economy is agriculturally based, with strong mining and tourism sectors and a diversified manufacturing base. It has become increasingly market based following the 1991-95 structural adjustment program. Primary exports are tobacco, cotton, oil seeds, livestock, gold, and nickel. Over 60 percent of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. The formal sector unemployment rate is above 45 percent. Indigenization (black economic empowerment) is a Government priority to redress economic disparities between the majority black population and a small white elite. The estimated 1996 annual per capita gross domestic product of $588 is expected to rise or decline if another drought occurs as predicted. Due to the rapid decline in the Zimbabwe dollar and escalating inflation at year's end, the poor and working class saw a significant drop in their standard of living. The Government respected some of the human rights of its citizens; however, there were significant problems in some areas, including incidents of police brutality, harsh prison conditions, pretrial detention, the Government's refusal to abide by several court rulings, CIO intimidation of opposition party candidates and their supporters, restrictions on academic freedom, infringements on citizens' privacy, restrictions on opposition party financing, and attempts at interference with nongovernmental organizations'(NGO) leadership selection. The political process remained heavily tilted in favor of the ruling party. As a result of the Government's improper handling of the October 1995 mayoral elections in Harare, Bulawayo, and Gweru, the High Court nullified the results of those votes. Ruling party candidates won the subsequent 1996 mayoral elections in all three cities, and in 1997 the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the new elections. During the December mayoral election in Chitungwiza an independent candidate, Fidelis Mhashu, campaigned strongly, but was defeated by the ZANU-PF candidate by a narrow margin. Mhashu was beaten severely in June at a local government office in the presence of government officials. There have been no reports of arrests or charges being brought against any individuals arising out of that attack. Although the small independent press was increasingly open and critical of the Government, there was some self-censorship. The electronic media--the major source of information for most citizens--remained totally Government controlled, and strict anti-defamation laws also led to self-censorship. Three new private television stations were granted broadcast rights. All three stations are likely to face financial difficulties due to limited revenue, and are restricted to broadcasting on an available channel leased from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation; creation of an independent transmission facility is still forbidden under the Broadcasting Act. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and traditional, often illegal, discrimination against women and the disabled continued.