Zimbabwe After the Military Takeover: Prospects for Credible Elections and Human Rights Reforms
Testimony of Dewa Mavhinga
Southern Africa Director, Human Rights Watch
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
December 12, 2017
Thank you, Chairman Flake, Ranking Member Booker, and other members of this subcommittee for giving me the opportunity to testify on behalf of Human Rights Watch at this hearing on Zimbabwe. I would like to request that my statement in its entirety be submitted for the record.
My name is Dewa Mavhinga. I am Southern Africa director in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch where I lead, among other duties, our human rights investigation work on Zimbabwe. I frequently travel to Zimbabwe and last month I was in Harare when the military takeover occurred on November 15, 2017. I have met with leaders of the main political parties, private media, and key civil society groups to assess human rights conditions since the military takeover and ahead of national elections scheduled for 2018. A Zimbabwean national myself, I maintain daily contact with local activists, and religious and business leaders in the country who regularly update me on the situation there.
Mr. Chairman, my testimony will first lay out the human rights situation in Zimbabwe since the military takeover of government functions on November 15, and then highlight key recommendations to the US government for action to press the new Zimbabwean government to ensure a rights-respecting environment leading to democratic, credible, transparent and peaceful elections and political stability thereafter.
I. Current Human Rights Situation
The Military Takeover and Mugabe Ouster
Following the military takeover, Robert Mugabe resigned as president on November 21 after 37 years of authoritarian rule marred by countless serious human rights violations. On November 24, Mugabe was replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has his own long record of rights violations. In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa confirmed that elections will take place by August 2018 as scheduled, but he did not address critical issues, notably the security sector, media, and electoral reforms necessary to ensure credible, free, and fair elections.
There has been no indication that the Mnangagwa administration intends to ensure the independence and enhance the professionalism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
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