Zimbabwe: human rights concerns despite a peaceful election

It’s one week on from the Zimbabwean election and it’s been quite a week for the country… I’ll try to give a quick summary of the past week’s events, and our concerns following reports of human rights violations in some districts.

Firstly, let’s cover the official results of the election - which gave victory to President Mugabe:

  • President Mugabe has been re-elected with 61% of the vote.
  • The MDC-T's Morgan Tsvangirai polled 34%. 
  • President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party gained 160 seats in the parliamentary elections
  • The MDC-T gained 49 seats - 23% of the seats available.

This gives ZANU-PF 76% of the seats, way above the 2/3 majority needed to make changes to the new, more human-rights friendly, constituion. This new consitution came into force in May after a 94% yes vote in the referendum.

Whilst the day itself was largely calm and peaceful the MDC has cried foul and rejected the result as 'null and void', describing the election as a ‘huge farce.' The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which had the largest number of monitors on the ground during the election, questioned the credibility of the elections saying they were ‘seriously compromised by a systematic effort to disenfranchise an estimated million voters’

The message from the regional observers, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) painted a different picture. The headline message from them was that the elections were peaceful and free - although they reserved judgement on whether they were ‘fair’ for their final reports.  

And whilst everyone waits for those final reports, unless there is a legal challenge then Robert Mugabe will be sworn in as President on Monday 12 August. The MDC has said that it intends to challenge the result. They've got until this Saturday to challenge, and if that happens, then the constitutional court has 14 days to rule on whether the result stands, or whether there needs to be a re-run of the election.

Now, Amnesty won’t get into the debate about whether these elections were ‘free and fair’ or ‘credible’ or any other such phrase to describe a nation’s democratic processes. We do not endorse or oppose any political party and will engage with any government to emerge from these elections to address human rights violations in Zimbabwe – past and present.

Which is exactly what we need your help with following these disturbing reports from just after Zimbabwe's elections.

At least six women with 12 children aged between 16 months and 10 years have been forced to flee their homes in Mukumbura district, Mashonaland Central Province, after being threatened with violence and forcible evictions by local village heads soon after the 31 July election. Some of the women had to leave children behind.

The six women alleged they had been targeted for refusing to follow instructions from ZANU-PF supporters to feign illiteracy, blindness or physical injury, which would have allowed someone else to ‘assist’ them by marking the ballot on their behalf (and thus compromise the secrecy of their vote.) One of the women reported that she had first been threatened in her village two weeks before the election and reported the matter to the police but no action was taken. The six displaced political activists told us that there are more families in the same predicament who remain stranded in the district under threat of violence.

Please fill your details into the form below, which will automatically generate a fax to the Police Officer in command of Mashonaland Central Province

Time will tell how the political events in Zimbabwe play out, with the international community lining up on both sides of the result. South Africa's President Zuma has extended his 'profound congratulations' to President Mugabe, and urged all political parties to accept the election. Other key SADC countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique have followed suit.. With more doubts, only Botswana has broken ranks in SADC, calling for an 'independent audit', saying that the result 'cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections.' Elsewhere, the US, UK and EU have all expressed concern at the conduct of the election, whilst China has endorsed the result.

Rest assured that Amnesty will continue to monitor and report on the human rights situation on the ground. Keep track of our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to hear the latest on how you can continue to stand up for human rights in Zimbabwe.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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