The AU and SADC have yet, however, to address the need for the new administration to design a roadmap for democratic elections and the political neutrality and non-interference of the security forces in civilian and electoral affairs of the country.
In early December, the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Phillipe van Damme, said the EU will not provide significant new funding to Zimbabwe until the country holds free, fair, and credible elections.
Human Rights Watch is of the view that full re-engagement with the Zimbabwean government should be based on a firm commitment from the interim administration in Harare that they will institute measures that will ensure tangible and long overdue democratic and electoral reforms. A key benchmark for increased US government engagement should be an independent assessment of the environment in which the 2018 elections are conducted and the transfer of power to an elected civilian government. It is important now that the military leadership publicly announce its commitment to credible, free and fair elections and that it respects the outcome of the elections.
Accountability and Justice for Past Abuses
Mnangagwa’s government should be encouraged through public statements to demonstrate commitment to accountability, justice for human rights abuses, and respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe. We believe that Mnangagwa’s recent calls to “let bygones be bygones” should not extend to serious human rights violations since 1980, many of which implicate the military. The first post-independence overt military involvement in Zimbabwe’s political affairs was during the period from 1982 to 1987 when the government deployed a section of the army, the Fifth Brigade, ostensibly to quell a military mutiny in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. The Fifth Brigade carried out widespread abuses including torture and unlawful killing of an estimated 20,000 people. In 1988 the government granted amnesty to all those involved in human rights violations committed between 1982 and 1987.
The military has also interfered in the nation’s political and electoral affairs in ways that adversely affected the ability of Zimbabwean citizens to vote freely, particularly during the 2008 elections when the army engaged in numerous systematic abuses including political violence, torture, and arson targeting political opponents. That violence resulted in the killing of more than 200 people, the beating and torture of 5,000 more, and the displacement of about 36,000 people.
ZANU-PF-affiliated military leaders who were implicated in the violence and abuses were never held to account. The military’s historical record should not go unnoticed as Zimbabwe prepares for another election.
In October 2008, soldiers killed more than 200 people and committed other serious human rights abuses in Chiadzwa, a village in Marange district, eastern Zimbabwe, and violently seized control of the district’s diamond fields. Human Rights Watch investigations showed that between 2008 and 2014 the government rotated army brigades into Marange to ensure that different brigades had an opportunity to benefit from the diamond trade. Soldiers harassed and threatened miners and other civilians into forming syndicates so that the soldiers could control diamond mining and trade in Marange.
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