Debilitating economy resulted in increased human rights violations in 2015…and it can only get worse
The year 2015 proved to be a tough one for the majority of Zimbabweans who had to bear the brunt of a struggling economy that was characterized by liquidity challenges, industry closures that culminated in massive job losses and retrenchments that claimed an estimated 28 000 jobs.
As unemployment became rife (Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated at over 80 percent) while other critical sectors of the economy were struggling, the majority of the populace were relegated into abject poverty while a series of clamp downs by officials on vending and other informal means of survival saw ordinary Zimbabweans without any alternative source of livelihoods.
The government and local authorities declared war on informal trading and this resulted in massive arrests of the informal traders and in some instances, there were bloody battles between the municipal police and the vendors who sought to fight for their supper.
As the economy continued on a downfall with no end in sight, government came under pressure from ordinary Zimbabweans to deliver as far as resuscitating the economy and improving people’s livelihoods was concerned.
Disgruntled citizens staged a series of protests challenging the ruling party, Zanu (PF) to deliver on it s 2013 election promise to create 2,2 million jobs.
Law enforcement agents descended heavily on the protesters and this again resulted in massive arrests of disgruntled Zimbabweans as well as civic society activists and journalists covering the events.
Government’s determination to thwart protests against the economic decay in the country indeed resulted in a series of human rights violations.
In violation of Section 59 of the constitution which guarantees the right to peaceful demonstrations, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) instituted a series of arrests of peaceful marchers in the name of preserving peace and order and insome cases; the demonstrators were labeled as “agents of regime change”.
The culmination of the human rights violations was the abduction of pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara on March 9, 2015 (he has not been accounted for since then) who had prior to his abduction, staged a series of protests calling on President Robert Mugabe to resign for having failed the economy.
It is evident that after having failed to resuscitate the economy, government got brutal against disgruntled citizens and the result was a wave of human rights violations.
Dzamara’s abduction triggered protests from citizens who were protesting against government’s move to resort to force to thwart civil liberties.
Prayer rallies to raise awareness on the missing Dzamara were disturbed by law enforcement agents as well.
Home demolitions without offering alternative accommodation to the affected families and farm evictions also formed part of the human rights violations in 2015.
Residents joined hands to demand the right to water as guaranteed in the constitution by protesting against the installation of pre-paid water meters.
As the year 2015 came to an end, civil servants, who were protesting against late payment of salaries and bonuses, joined the bandwagon of protestors and a demonstration by rural teachers in January2016 saw government using a heavy hand to crush the demonstrations.
Government labeled any form of protest against its failure to revive the economy as a move by opposition activists to discredit it and “effect regime change agenda”.
Determined to cling on to power, Zanu (PF) showed a firm commitment to crush genuine and legal protests by force.
As the economy continues on a downward trend, disgruntlement among ordinary Zimbabweans reeling under poverty can only get worse and this raises fears of an increased clampdown on human rights by the government.