Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Zimbabwe

Publisher Freedom House
Author Robert B. Lloyd
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Freedom House, Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Zimbabwe, 2004, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.

(Scores are based on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 representing weakest and 7 representing strongest performance.)

Executive Summary


Robert B. Lloyd is a professor of international relations at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. His primary research interests are international conflict resolution, negotiation, and Africa.

The year 2002-03 saw a continuation of political strife in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, president since independence in 1980, rules a country torn by deep political fissures, a freefalling economy, and egregious human rights abuses. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party faces its greatest-ever challenge from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.

To retain power, Mugabe's government has resorted to ever more repressive measures. While Zimbabwe's constitution in theory protects citizens' basic human rights, the government engages in intimidation, beatings, detention, and torture of opposition supporters, whom it calls terrorists. The rule of law continues to disintegrate in the country. The illegal seizure of commercial farmland proceeds apace. However, despite the growing politicization of the judiciary, the courts retain some independence from the executive.

The government extensively regulates the economy, affording ample opportunity for corruption. Effective means of ensuring accountability of public funds are lacking. As a result, Zimbabwe is ranked near the bottom on most international indexes of state corruption and economic freedom.

The opposition MDC has posed an increasing political threat to Mugabe since the 2000 parliamentary elections. As a result of widespread allegations of election fraud and human rights abuses in the 2002 presidential elections, the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom, and the United States have imposed limited sanctions on Zimbabwe. Despite these sanctions, the government continues to undermine the MDC, most recently through charging its leader, Tsvangirai, with treason for a second time. The government also employs restrictive legislation to silence prominent critics. The Amani Trust, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that assists victims of torture, and the Daily News, Zimbabwe's last independent, privately owned newspaper, were closed. Guardian correspondent Andrew Meldrum was illegally deported.

Zimbabwe's political repression and economic depression ensured the country's isolation in 2002-03. But change is coming. President Mugabe is nearly 80 years old. In the short term, efforts should be directed toward protecting what freedom remains for the political opposition, civic organizations, and business. A post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will be a country in economic and political ruin. Most efforts at this early stage must address basic issues like famine. Serious attention will then have to be given to dealing with the crimes of the Mugabe era, sorting out land title issues, jump-starting the economy, drafting a new constitution, and building confidence in the government and its leaders.

Civil Liberties – 2.97

Zimbabwe's constitution provides for the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, "whatever his race, tribe, place of origin, colour, creed, or sex." It also prohibits torture and degrading punishment, as well as guaranteeing protection from arbitrary search or entry. Later amendments, however, qualify these rights subject to "the interests of defense, public safety, public order, and public morality." State-of-emergency laws, retained from the colonial era, are employed by the government to suppress dissent.

Zimbabwe has a culture that condones politically motivated torture. Police and military officials involved in torture are forgiven by presidential pardon and periodic amnesty laws. Police rarely investigate allegations of torture. Credible allegations of torture are regularly directed at individuals within Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, agents of the Central Intelligence Organization, members of the police, and individuals within the pro-Mugabe youth militia.1 Human Rights Watch reports that graduates of the Border Gezi National Training Centers have been formed into a Zanu-PF youth militia. Graduates deploy throughout Zimbabwe, where they set up roadblocks, harass suspected MDC supporters, and enforce government price controls. The police have not intervened in cases where they have observed attacks by the youth militia against civilians.2 Amnesty International reports one case in which a human rights lawyer was tortured while in police custody; during his court appearance medical evidence was submitted supporting his claim that he had received electric shocks on his genitals, toes, and mouth.3

The government, while not directly justifying political violence, has argued that Zimbabwe faces the "stark reality of terrorism at our doorsteps." Mugabe views the MDC as terrorists, not satisfied with its representation in parliament. The leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been charged twice with treason. The government also accuses Western media of overlooking political violence perpetrated by the MDC.4

Given this view of the conflict, it is not surprising that at times the government responds with excessive force to public protests and demonstrations. In October 2002, for example, the police used force against a national teachers' strike organized by the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, police responses to student demonstrations include harassing, arresting, and torturing the student leaders and shooting tear gas canisters into enclosed areas such as dormitories and classrooms.5

There is no effective protection against long-term detention without legal trial. Numerous cases have been documented of Zimbabweans being arrested and not released immediately. Instances of detention increased in March 2003, apparently related to the MDC's stay-away campaign and to two by-elections.6

Ethnic tensions persist in Zimbabwe. Shortly after independence in 1980, rivalry between majority Shona and minority Ndebele speakers sparked a low-level civil war. More recently, support for the opposition MDC has been relatively strong among Ndebele speakers in Matebeleland. Although President Mugabe is a Shona speaker, there is no indication of legal discrimination against minority languages.7 Many Ndebeles in Matabeleland, however, argue that the government discriminates against them in law and employment.8

The constitution provides for freedom of religion. Limitations on religious observance, ceremony, and education are relatively non-repressive, but increasingly restrictive. Most Zimbabweans are Christians, but a significant number adhere to some degree to traditional African religious practices. Muslims constitute less than 2 percent of the population. The government allows religious instruction at all educational levels. Christian-run schools and hospitals are common. Some restrictions do exist on sorcery, and traditional groups clash with the government over vaccination of children vs. reliance on prayer alone for their protection from disease. Islamic groups are given some limited airtime on state-owned broadcasting.9

Between 2001 and 2003, relations deteriorated between the government and the religious community. Reports of physical attacks on pastors by youths and war veterans as well as police, and security intimidation of church leaders, have increased in frequency and intensity.10 Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, is the most prominent church opponent of President Mugabe. Ncube denies that he supports the opposition but has received death threats and is under government surveillance.11 Although government infiltration of religious groups has been reported, little evidence of systematic and severe government interference in the appointment of religious leaders or the internal organization of faith-based organizations has surfaced.

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and association. Several clauses, however, do subordinate this freedom to the interests of safety, order, and morality. In practice, these rights are further limited by legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and government policies with respect to the political opposition.12

The Labor Relations Act allows private sector workers to form and operate unions. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is an umbrella organization of approximately 30 individual unions. The government views the ZCTU as being aligned with the opposition MDC. Morgan Tsvangirai began his career as secretary-general of the union. In that role he successfully challenged Mugabe on a number of his policies. The government has attempted to reduce the power of the ZCTU through harassment, intimidation, and violence. The government has started a rival pro-Mugabe union, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), to undermine the ZCTU.13

The government has placed new legal restrictions on the ability of NGOs to operate. President Mugabe announced at the opening of the fourth session of parliament in July 2003 that the government would introduce new legislation governing the operations of NGOs.14 Existing legislation, such as the POSA, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the Private Voluntary Organizations Act of 1996, has already been used to restrict the freedom of NGOs.15

There is a clash of values regarding the status and role of women in Zimbabwe. Traditional African law posits different roles, relations, and rights for men and women that are not always compatible with Western social and legal traditions. Thus, practical difficulties arise in enforcing both national and international laws against customary traditions. While the government has made illegal some traditional practices, such as lobola (bride price), others, such as polygamy, remain legal.16 The U.S. State Department reports that domestic violence against women is common.

Labor legislation prohibits gender-related discrimination in the labor market. Furthermore, the ministry of youth development, gender, and employment promotes the role of women. Nevertheless, most women tend to occupy lower level positions in society. Reports of sexual harassment in the workplace are relatively common.17

No reports on widespread trafficking of women and children have been reported by the government, human rights organizations, or international organizations. In rural areas there are reports of girls being offered in compensation for interfamily disputes in accordance with traditional customs. There are also reports of women being transported to South Africa to work as prostitutes.


Policy proposals to foster respect for civil liberties must be aimed directly at government failure to uphold constitutional rights and liberties. Therefore, short-term policies should focus simply on protection of human life, including through the disbandment of youth militias. Government leaders need to know there are consequences for using war veterans, youth militia, police, and security services to intimidate, beat, and detain civilians, and therefore Zanu-PF supporters should prosecuted. The second priority should be to enhance the ability of civil society to withstand the government assaults through continued smart sanctions against the government, financial and legal assistance to NGOs, and international support of Zimbabweans exercising their constitutional freedoms of association, assembly, and speech. Judges should be held to their duty to apply the constitution justly, despite government interference. Finally, the political space of actors in Zimbabwe needs to be protected through the repeal of recently enacted restrictive legislation. In the likely event that restrictive legislation remains, then international sanctions should be maintained or even increased to discourage the government from enforcing these laws.

Rule of Law – 2.48

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Furthermore, senior judges are required to have had legal training, to be experienced with Roman-Dutch law, and to be fluent in English. President Mugabe has made increasing efforts to extend his control over the Supreme Court. The previous chief justice resigned in 2001 after being physically threatened. He was replaced by Godfrey Chidyausiku, an ally of the government. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that on February 17, 2003, High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza was arrested after ruling against the government in a number of cases. The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers stated that the cumulative impact of his arrest as well as other government actions "have left Zimbabwe's rule of law in tatters."18 The United States Institute of Peace, however, reports that Zimbabwe's magistrate courts have remained fairly professional.19

Government officials have publicly stated that the government has the right to ignore adverse court decisions that are not "objective." In May 2003, for example, the government expelled an American, Andrew Meldrum, who also has Zimbabwean permanent residence status. Meldrum was a reporter with the British Guardian and Economist newspapers. His expulsion was in defiance of a High Court order granted earlier the same day halting the deportation and ordering his release. Another example is the continuing government seizures of farmland owned by white Zimbabwean citizens, which have taken place with little government regard to judicial rulings and constitutional guarantees for protection of property rights.20

The constitution states clearly that every person charged with a criminal offense is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty or having pled guilty. It is possible that an accused citizen may receive a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law. If, however, the case relates to the ongoing political struggle between President Mugabe, his Zanu-PF party, and the political opposition, then it is unlikely that all these elements will be in place. In theory prosecutors are free from political direction and control. However, the breakdown in the rule of law combined with executive assaults on the independence of the judiciary make it possible to control prosecutors politically. Charges that the police and courts fail to follow up on crimes allegedly committed against MDC supporters are common.

In criminal cases, an indigent person may request legal assistance, but this is rarely granted. Zimbabweans are, however, provided an interpreter at state expense. The U.S. State Department reported that in 2002 more than 90 percent of defendants in court did not have legal representation. On the other hand, the country does provide citizens charged with serious felonies access to independent counsel when it is beyond their means.21

High-profile individuals such as Morgan Tsvangirai have received access to legal counsel and some degree of judicial independence. During Tsvangirai's June 2003 hearing, for example, government prosecutors requested the judge to bar the MDC leader from inciting public disorder through "inflammatory statements." Tsvangirai's attorney, George Bizos – who also represented former South African president Nelson Mandela at his 1960s Rivonia trial for treason – argued that the judicial process should not become politicized. The judge agreed not to gag Morgan Tsvangirai but did deny him bail, thus requiring the leader of the opposition to remain in jail.22

Overall, security and military forces act to support the Zanu-PF and fail to act impartially in peaceful opposition protests. The harassment, torture, detention, and killing of Zimbabweans by these forces have not been strongly condemned by the government. The government has been careful to provide for the needs of the senior members of the military, since in large measure Mugabe's continued rule depends on their support. The result of this interdependence is an increasingly militaristic regime. The police and security forces act on the orders of the president. Top officials owe their positions to Mugabe and have received land and other benefits for their loyalty.23 While individuals within these services may disagree with such politicizing, they either go along or are purged.24 Many middle-ranking and junior officers, however, prefer the opposition MDC.25

Given the entrenched system of political patronage, public officials and ruling party leaders are not prosecuted for wrongdoing. Beginning with President Mugabe himself and pervading all levels of government below him, there is a culture that fosters lack of accountability to the electorate. This is reflected in periodic government amnesties to government members accused of wrongdoing. In October 2000, for example, President Mugabe decreed a general amnesty for all politically related crimes that had occurred in the first six month of that year. The illegal seizure of land has been another ripe opportunity for political leaders to abuse their power to obtain these properties.

The constitution grants due process for all individuals, regardless of race, sex, origin, political opinion, or religious belief. Nevertheless, the issue of who is a Zimbabwean is a contentious one due to the country's colonial history. The government now increasingly discriminates against Zimbabweans who are political opponents or white. In the case of whites, recent legislation has restricted their Zimbabwean citizenship. Justifications for land seizures are made on explicitly racist grounds. White Zimbabweans have no right to their farms because they gained the land illegally, the government argues. While the issue of land tenure inequality has been important, the seizure of the land of white Zimbabweans is analogous to the seizure of the property of Ugandans of Asian descent that occurred under Idi Amin in the 1970s.

The government's failure to support property rights is simply another symptom of a general of lack of respect for the law. The protection of property rights is normally considered a central aim of government. When the state itself is party to the illegal confiscation or restriction of property, then the operation of the entire economy will falter. In Zimbabwe the Mugabe government has systematically expropriated land, forced private pension funds to invest nearly half their assets in government treasury bills that pay dividends at a small fraction of the inflation rate, and employed inflationary policies, such as printing money, that have destroyed Zimbabweans' ability to make a living for themselves and their families. In September 2003, Zimbabwe's inflation rate stood at 455.6 percent, among the highest in the world.26


Policies to improve the rule of law must focus on the protection of property and the courts. The government needs to return all land taken from Zimbabweans and develop an independent commission to deal with issues of land reform in a transparent and constitutional manner. Second, the government needs to stop politicizing the courts by placing close political supporters in judgeships. Restrictive legislation like the POSA and AIPPA needs to be repealed. In a post-Mugabe future, a new constitutional commission needs to work closely with all sectors of society, including the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). The new constitution needs to separate clearly the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. Clear limits on the powers of the executive merit special attention.

Anticorruption and Transparency – 1.86

Government policies create ample opportunities for corruption. At independence, the new government retained the Rhodesia-era regulations of import-substitution policies, price controls, tariffs, and licensing. The government also purchased private companies and borrowed money to finance ailing state-owned corporations, fund social programs, and increase the military. Faced with unemployment, inflation, labor strikes, and large budget deficits, Mugabe seized the assets of white-owned farms. This in turn has rippled throughout the economy, as banks with loans to farmers begin to fail due to the lack of repayment and no collateral. Farm employment has tumbled, throwing hundreds of thousands out of work. Foreign exchange earnings have collapsed, leading to shortages of hard currency.27 The economic situation is so dire that nearly half of Zimbabweans risk starvation – a country that once exported grain now depends on international food aid – and unemployment rates are around 70 percent.28

At this point the judiciary is the only mechanism for challenging allegations of corruption. Those whose land and property have been seized by the Mugabe government have appealed to the courts for redress. However, the government has often chosen to ignore court rulings not in its favor.

Zimbabwe's government does not currently have an effective legislative or administrative process that promotes integrity and punishes corruption. The result is relatively high levels of corruption. Transparency International reports in its 2002 International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) that Zimbabwe's rank slid from 43 in 1998 to 71 in 2002. Zimbabwe scored 2, with a possible top score of 10.

Although the Prevention of Corruption Act provides for anti-corruption mechanisms, the government does not disclose many financial details that would make its operations more transparent and help avoid any possible conflict of interest among public officials. The assets of some public officials – large houses and properties – would suggest income other than government salaries, but no financial disclosures are available to assess whether the assets were obtained in a lawful or unlawful manner.29 Furthermore, the legal environment is generally not supportive of investigators seeking to report cases of bribery and corruption.

The constitution provides for a comptroller and an auditor general to perform audits on government operations. The function of these two bodies is to ensure that funds are collected and spent in ways consistent with the intent of parliament. They are appointed by the president. In addition, there is an ombudsman, also appointed by the president, who is charged with investigating allegations of injustice suffered by a Zimbabwean as a result of a government act for which remedy is unlikely through the courts. Despite these constitutional safeguards, it is difficult to assess whether the government and tax administrator operate effective internal audit systems to ensure accountability of expenditure and tax collection. Given the relatively high levels of corruption in the government, lower level officials would have ample incentives for both graft and its concealment.

In high-profile cases there is tremendous popular pressure to respond to charges of corruption. In 2002, the former chief executive of the state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) was the target of an investigation into allegations of Noczim officials' selling fuel on the black market with the involvement of top government and Zanu-PF officials. This is politically charged, as the country has faced serious fuel shortages due to price controls. The police say that investigations into the state-owned corporation as well as individuals are continuing.30 There are no cases, however, of high-level officials very close to President Mugabe who have been prosecuted and jailed for corruption.

Many allegations of corruption relate to the government procurement process. The Procurement Act makes illegal any collusion among government contractors and providers of goods or services. The president can limit the act at his discretion. For example, in a recent case, the state procurement board detected irregularities in procurement relating to the purchase of 50 luxury buses from South Africa by the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco).

At other times the government does not act on charges of corruption. In May 2003 President Mugabe received a confidential report that uncovered extensive corruption in the land seizure process. The report showed the use of violence by senior politicians and military officers to evict landless small farmers. In addition, many of his closest and highly placed political allies have violated the one person, one farm rule. This proved politically embarrassing to the government. As a result, Mugabe set a mid-August 2003 deadline to return extra farms. A month later, however, no top official had returned "extra" land. In short, there is little to no prospect that the land will ever be returned to its original owners.31

The ruling Zanu-PF party integrates the personal interest of officeholders with the public office they hold. The president's party owns two companies, the M & S Syndicate and Zidco Holdings. Collectively, these two companies own a wide range of businesses in Zimbabwe, allowing party elites to share in their profits. Zanu-PF has refused to open its books on these two companies.32

While the news media have reported allegations of corruption, the gradual restricting of independent media makes it more difficult to assess corruption in the government fully. In some cases, like Noczim and fuel shortages, the impact is so great that the problem becomes immediately evident. In cases of procurement, detection of corruption, bribes, and kickbacks through state-controlled media is problematic.

The worsening economic situation has made more difficult the operation of higher education in Zimbabwe. One professor at the University of Zimbabwe noted political interference from political appointees, corruption, and continual battles of police on campus. Many teachers support the opposition MDC. According to the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, government security agents have intimidated, harassed, and arrested teachers and students.33

There is a degree of legal, regulatory, and judicial transparency. Budget and other information is published, and every fall the government presents to the parliament budget details for the next year. The government, however, has been accused of omitting key assumptions on future inflation, growth, and interest rates that make assessing the validity of the budget more difficult. The government must return late in the next fiscal year and request supplemental funding due to inaccurate assumptions. Nevertheless, there are some areas of the budget, such as defense, where not all details are available. Zimbabwe also has legislation that permits the executive to keep information relating to public expenditure secret from parliament. The growing number of opposition members of parliament, particularly those from the MDC, allows for greater opportunities to question the budget. The executive has, in the past, provided inaccurate figures on expected revenues and expenses. No independent parliamentary audit body exists to analyze the budget figures and assumptions that come from the executive.

Citizens have a legal right to obtain information about the conduct of government. The recently approved Access to Information and Privacy Act includes limited provisions for access and privacy, but it simultaneously provides the government more powers by restricting access to information held by public bodies; establishing a government-controlled media and information commission, which regulates the independent media; requiring the accreditation of journalists and media houses; and criminalizing the publication of false information, whether intentional or not. The Supreme Court in May 2003 struck down this particular provision as violating the constitution's guarantee of free expression.

The government has also interfered in the administration of foreign assistance. Zimbabwe is facing severe famine due to the collapse of the farming sector through commercial farmland seizures. But in early September 2003 officials with the United Nations announced the closure of three field offices in rural areas after the Zimbabwean government ordered that international food aid be handed over to local authorities for distribution. UN representatives say the delivery of relief supplies is unaffected and monitoring has continued. The Zimbabwean government has denied allegations of politicizing food aid by giving preference to political supporters rather than the opposition.34


The government needs an outside audit of its finances, the creation or reinvigoration of government oversight agencies in both the executive and legislative branches, and open financial disclosure of the Zanu-PF family of companies. The government also needs to implement the anticorruption protocols of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and of its 2001 Malawi Summit. These agreements are a good first step, but compliance mechanisms must also be put in place.

However, assent to protocols and oversight committees will ultimately fail if powerful economic incentives for political corruption exist. Therefore, it is necessary to divest the government of its state-owned enterprises and system of state licensing. The procurement of goods and services has proved to be an area ripe for corruption. Legislation that examines instituting methods of accountability is necessary.

Finally, the government must ensure international accountability in the distribution of food aid by allowing the United Nations and other international and domestic organizations the ability to monitor the food's distribution.

Accountability and Public Voice – 2.19

Zimbabwe has a parliamentary system with a strong presidency. The ruling Zanu-PF has held power since independence. While in the past the country was a de facto single-party state, a number of parties now challenge Zanu-PF in both the legislative and executive branches. The chief opposition, the MDC, does not recognize the president as legitimate, charging voter fraud in the 2002 elections. For its part, the government has attempted to undermine the opposition. The leader of the MDC opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, is distracted from his duties while he fights in court to avoid being executed for treason.

Government regulations on campaign financing are inadequate in the face of the Zanu-PF-led government's determined efforts to retain power. High Zanu-PF officials have been given seized land, the government has faced allegations of using food to buy votes, and government-trained and -supported youth militia intimidate opposition supporters and leaders.

In all elections, there are widespread allegations of ballot tampering and intimidation of MDC supporters by government forces. Despite these challenges, elections are not so fraudulent as to completely eliminate a political opposition or preclude the rotation of power among contending parties. In March 2003 the MDC won two by-election victories in its Harare strongholds by a wide margin. Although the campaign was violent, voting was fairly peaceful.35 In August 2003 new elections handed the MDC executive mayors in a string of important cities. Zanu-PF, however, consolidated its power in small towns, which are influenced heavily by the rural communities surrounding them that tend to support Mugabe.36

Opposition parties charge that elections are not free and fair. The international community is divided over this issue. The Commonwealth, the EU, Britain, and the United States state that elections are not free and fair and have imposed sanctions in an attempt to change the behavior of President Mugabe regarding civil rights and liberties in the country.37 In contrast, most African states argue that the elections have been free and fair. The SADC, South Africa, and Namibia, for example, have accepted the results of the most recent presidential elections.38

The MDC opposition argues that Mugabe's Zanu-PF employs military, security, and police forces to maintain power. For its part, the government distinguishes between political opposition that is foreign-backed and opposition that is purely domestic. The Mugabe government argues that the MDC receives foreign backing and is therefore dominated by foreign interests, specifically those of the British – the erstwhile colonial rulers.

The civil service in Zimbabwe, like most in Africa, has been seen as a means to reward political supporters with government jobs. In 2002-03, however, the politicization of the civil service in Zimbabwe grew with the proposed introduction of party loyalty tests for civil servants. Both current and prospective government employees must pass this test in order to be employed. Justifying this policy, Ray Ndhlukula, Secretary of the Public Service Commission, states that civil servants need to be more "patriotic," committed to the ruling Zanu-PF party and government.39

Zimbabwean politics, however, do exhibit some positive features. Women participate in politics without legal restriction. Women hold seats in parliament, as government ministers, and at the local level. To foster greater involvement, the Zanu-PF congress allots to women a fixed quota of party positions and in the party's powerful Central Committee. All major ethnic groups are represented in the government, although most belong to the numerically dominant Shona ethnolinguistic group.40 Legislation is debated in parliament, allowing the opportunity for citizens to become aware of pending legislative changes.

Zimbabwe has a large and vibrant civil sector. The government permits independent civil society organizations but exercises close supervision over them. In 2002-03 the government declared that one such organization, the Amani Trust, had failed to register with the ministry of social welfare under the 1995 Private Voluntary Organizations Act. The Amani Trust, chaired by Archbishop Pius Ncube, offered health and counseling services to torture victims. The organization ceased operations soon afterward. The NCA, formed in 1997 from a coalition of NGOs seeking constitutional reform, has emerged as the chief civic organization successfully challenging the government.

Donors and funders of civic organizations and public policy institutes face some state pressure. Zimbabwe's economic freefall makes increasingly difficult the private and domestic financial support of civic organizations and public policy institutes. As a result, foreign funding of such organizations is common. The government believes that such foreign funding permits undue external pressure on these organizations and that they support the opposition. This attitude, coupled with registration requirements and restrictive legislation, such as the POSA and the AIPPA, hamper their ability to operate free of state influence.

The government owns both print and broadcast media. The state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) controls all domestic radio and television stations. The government-owned and -operated daily newspaper The Herald is biased toward the Mugabe government in its reporting.

The government also restricts independent print and broadcast media. Legislation such as the POSA and the AIPPA place clear restrictions on the media. The POSA, for example, criminalizes false reporting and statements that "incite or promote public disorder or public violence." It also requires that police be notified in advance of any public gathering of more than two people and prohibits those that police believe could cause public disorder. Journalists have been beaten, detained, and threatened. On September 12, 2003, the government closed the offices of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent, privately owned newspaper, for failing to register in a timely manner with the state media and information commission. This decision was overruled by the Zimbabwe High Court, but police have refused staff entry to the Daily News offices. The paper's online publication was also not operating.41 The lack of any private and independent media in Zimbabwe means that only state-owned or pro-government media remain in the country.42

The Zimbabwe board of censors reviews books and films. Independent foreign journalists must be accredited by the government. The government's illegal deportation of Guardian reporter Andrew Meldrum in May 2003 meant no more foreign correspondents remained officially in the country. Journalists working for non-state media are not protected from victimization by powerful non-state actors. There are credible reports of attacks against journalists by agents of the state. In some instances of attacks, however, the identity of the alleged perpetrators was unclear.


Policies regarding media freedoms and the civic sector must counter restrictions on the media and NGOs. The history of Zimbabwe and other African states shows that a strong bill of rights is necessary to secure the liberty of citizens. Zimbabwe is largely homogeneous in both faith and language. All political parties should be strengthened to enable engagement in the political process and avoid the winner-takes-all culture that has marked Zimbabwe. The country is unlikely to split apart in a more open political environment, and in a post-Mugabe future, Zanu-PF is likely to be politically discredited for some time.

The government needs to repeal the AIPPA and the POSA. The government also needs to allow foreign correspondents back into the country and permit international and domestic election observers free access during elections. Finally, Mugabe needs to negotiate rather than jail the political opposition. One source of leverage is the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The international community can explicitly link its support for NEPAD with African actions on Zimbabwe.


1 "Zimbabwe and Politics of Torture," Special Report 92 (United States Institute of Peace, August 2002), 1-4.

2 "Under a Shadow: Civil and Political Rights in Zimbabwe," A Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper (New York: Human Rights Watch, 6 June 2003),

3 "Amnesty International Report on Torture" (London: Amnesty International, 26 June 2003),

4 "Police Told to Be Vigilant" (Harare: Zanu-PF Information),; D.N. Mutasa, Secretary for External Relations, Zanu-PF, "Acts of Terrorism by the Opposition in Zimbabwe" (Zanu-PF Information),

5 Amnesty International Report.

6 "Mass Arrests Signal New and Dangerous Phase of Repression," Amnesty International Press Release (AI Index: AFR 46/009/2003 [Public]), News Service No: 064, (Zimbabwe: Amnesty International, 21 March 2003),

7 Ethnologue 2003 (Dallas: SIL International),; "Harare Declaration" (Harare, Zimbabwe: Intergovernmental Conference of Ministers on Language Policy, March 1997),

8 "Zimbabwe Votes: Matabeleland," BBC News, 10 March 2002,; "Zimbabwe Presidential Elections 2002" (Johannesburg: The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa),

9 Zimbabwe, International Religious Freedom Report 2002 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, October 2002),

10 "Under a Shadow" (Human Rights Watch).

11 Africa Confidential, vol. 44, no. 11, 30 May 2003,

12 "Zimbabwe: Rights Under Siege," (AI Index: AFR 46/012/2003), (London: Amnesty International, May 2003).

13 Zimbabwe, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002 (U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 31 March 2003),

14 "Zimbabwe: SADC Leaders Should Place Zimbabwe on the Agenda of Their Summit," Press Release (Amnesty International, 22 August 2003),

15 "Under a Shadow" (Human Rights Watch).

16 Samu Zulu, "Zimbabwe Court Rules Women Are Teenagers," Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), 7 May 1999,

17 Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State), 26-28.

18 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 69 IRIN, (19 February 2003),

19 "Zimbabwe and the Prospects for Nonviolent Change," Special Report 109 (United States Institute of Peace, August 2003), p. 4.

20 "Journalist, Andrew Meldrum, Deported," The Standard (Zimbabwe),

21 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports, p. 11.

22 Peta Thornycroft and David Blair, "Judge Rejects Attempt to Gag Tsvangirai," Telegraph (London), 10 June 2003,,

23 "Zimbabwe Plots: The Whiff of Rotting Tyranny," Economist, 18 January 2003, 49.

24 "Zimbabwean Protest: No Need to Panic," Economist, 7 June 2003, 42.

25 "The New Veterans March Home: Corrupt and Politicized, President Mugabe's Army May Be More Dangerous at Home than It Was in the Congo," Africa Confidential, Vol. 43 No. 23, 22 November 2002,

26 BBC, "Zimbabwe Inflation Hits New High," 14 October 2003,

27 Robert B. Lloyd, "Zimbabwe's Autocratic 'Democracy,'" Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs, Vol. 101, No. 665, May 2002, pp. 222-23.

28 "Zimbabwe: Danger and Opportunity," ICG Africa Report No. 60 (International Crisis Group, 10 March 2003), 3, 4.

29 "War on England," Africa Confidential, Vol. 44, No. 18, 12 September 2003,; and "Landing in trouble," Africa Confidential, Vol. 44, No. 6, 21 March 2003,

30 "Ex-Noczim Boss in Libya as Police Net Spreads," Zimbabwe Independent (Harare), 12 September 2003,

31 "1,500 Single-Farm Owners Lost Land to Reform – Justice for Agriculture," The Daily News (Harare), 11 September 2003,; "This Land Is Our Land," Africa Confidential, Vol. 44, No. 4, 21 February 2003,

32 "Inside Zimbabwe Inc.," Focus 19 (Helen Suzman Foundation, September 2000),

33 Andrew Meldrum, "No Surrender," Guardian (UK), 10 June 2003,,3858,4687048-108234,00.html.

34 "Zimbabwe Closes UN Food Offices," BBC News, 5 September, 2003,

35 "Votes and Gaols," Africa Confidential, Vol. 44 No. 7, 4 April 2003,

36 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN, Harare, 2 September 2003,

37 "The Poll That Bob Stole," Special Report: Zimbabwe's future, Economist, 16 March 2002, 28-30; and "Row Worsens Over Zimbabwe," BBC News, 17 September 2003,

38 "Not Too Smart," Africa Confidential, Vol. 43, No. 20, 11 October 2002,

39 Lewis Machipisa, "Party Test for Zimbabwe Civil Servants," BBC News, 22 November, 2002,

40 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports (31 March 2003).

41 "Zimbabwe Keeps Paper Muzzled," BBC News, 20 September 2003,; and "Harare Defies Newspaper Ruling," BBC News, 19 September 2003,

42 "2003 Report on Zimbabwe," Reporters Without Borders, 2 May 2003,

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