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Zimbabwe: Victims of violence can no longer wait for political solution

Amnesty International today released a report and new video footage that graphically demonstrates the ongoing suffering of the Zimbabwean people, as the three main political parties in Zimbabwe struggle to form an inclusive government.

Speaking from Johannesburg, Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe Researcher, Simeon Mawanza said:

“Every day that passes without a political solution, the living conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans become more and more desperate.”

Amnesty International’s report, ‘Zimbabwe – Time for Accountability’, examines the impact of the post-election violence on the victims and makes recommendations to all parties participating in the current political talks on how to break the cycle of impunity that has plagued the country for decades.

Simeon Mawanza continued:

“We’re concerned that human rights have not been at the centre of the negotiation process. Discussions should be about providing justice and relief to people – not just politics. The Zimbabwean people are now living on a knife-edge and cannot afford to wait for the political bickering to end.

“While the parties continue to negotiate on political details, the most vulnerable Zimbabweans are at further risk of extreme hunger. Many Zimbabweans are now only surviving by eating wild fruit.”

Amnesty International warned that with the rainy season coming, tens of thousands of Zimbabwean farmers who were victims of the recent wave of state-sponsored human rights violations are facing another failed agricultural season.

Simeon Mawanza continued:
“The international community – particularly Southern African leaders – must not stand by and watch the Zimbabwean people slip deeper and deeper into poverty and despair while their political leaders squabble.

“The setting up of an inclusive government is a great opportunity to tackle Zimbabwe’s long-standing legacy of impunity for human rights violations and build a new culture of human rights respect.”

Most of the victims of political violence from rural areas were subsistence farmers who were managing to feed their families. Their arms and legs were broken from beatings and torture and they are unable to till their lands during the upcoming farming season – leaving them dependent on food aid, possibly for the rest of their lives.

“If we think the food situation in Zimbabwe is bad now, just wait until the end of this year, when half of the population is likely to need aid,” said Simeon Mawanza.

Lyn, an 86-year-old farmer, was supporting her family with food grown in her fields. She was assaulted in July for not attending ZANU-PF meetings. Her back was injured and her arm broken by ”war veterans”. She told Amnesty International:

“I am now disabled. I can’t work in the field. I want to be compensated for the injuries. I want [my attackers] to be brought to justice.”

No one has been held accountable for the gross human rights violations – including beatings and torture – that occurred in the context of the elections, despite the fact that the attackers are identifiable.

The vast majority of victims interviewed by Amnesty International said that they could name their attackers – most of whom were in the security forces, “war veterans” or local ZANU-PF activists. The fact that perpetrators did not even attempt to conceal their identities shows the level of confidence they had that they would never be held to account for their crimes.

The violations that took place after the March elections were state-sponsored and the perpetrators are known. Many were in the security forces and made no attempt to conceal their identity. Often they were using government vehicles.

Simeon Mawanza said:

“Since 2000, the ZANU-PF government has ignored evidence of human rights violations, thereby exempting perpetrators from any form of accountability – and allowing them to believe they can continue with their actions. Breaking this cycle of violations must be a top priority for the new government once it is in place.

“Victims have a right to compensation, to know the truth, and to derive satisfaction from seeing the perpetrators being brought to justice. Such a remedy will send a message that the new Zimbabwe will no longer settle for political differences being ‘resolved’ through beatings or torture.”

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