CIVICUS

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Zimbabwe

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Last updated on 30.10.2020 at 06:51

The Civic Space Developments

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Government adopts strategic measures to thwart protests by doctors

Government adopts strategic measures to thwart protests by doctors

Amid escalating strikes and protests by health workers in the country in recent months, the government adopted controversial new measures which were seen by many as an attempt to muzzle the right to unionise

Association

Amid escalating strikes and protests by health workers in the country in recent months, the government adopted controversial new measures which were seen by many as an attempt to muzzle the right to unionise. On 28th September 2020, the government announced that newly graduated doctors would now be recruited into the army as military doctors as a requirement to work in government hospitals. The move followed the recent appointment of the vice president and army general, Constantino Chiwenga, as the minister of health and child care after a series of protests by health professionals.

Critics denounced this move as a ploy to prevent doctors from engaging in industrial action such as labour strikes, and also to prevent them from seeking opportunities abroad. Zimbabwe’s constitution does not allow members of the armed forces to engage in collective bargaining or join trade unions.

Norman Matara, secretary of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights expressed concern at the new measures, and said:

“We think that this is a move to clip the wings of doctors and make sure that they do not exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to go on industrial action by making them part of the ZDF.”

As previously reported on the Monitor, doctors and nurses in the country have held several strikes and protests in recent months to demand better salaries and working conditions.

Association

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution. However,

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution. However, adherence to this right is not reflected in domestic laws and regulations, nor in practice. Associations are subject to mandatory registration requirements through complex registration procedures, with severe penalties (including fines and imprisonment) for operating as an unregistered group.Associations can be denied legal recognition on broad and politically motivated grounds, with no clear timeframe for review or appeal processes. Foreign funding is restricted for organisations engaged in voter educating programmes, which is matched by hostile government rhetoric against groups that receive foreign funding. NGOs and their leaders are also subject to routine harassment and intimidation.

Peaceful Assembly

Anti-government protests have proliferated in Zimbabwe since June 2016, as the country heads towards elections in 2018.

Anti-government protests have proliferated in Zimbabwe since June 2016, as the country heads towards elections in 2018. Between July 5 and July 15, 2016 at least 300 people were arrested and charged with violating provisions of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act after participating in peaceful protests over economic mismanagement by the government. Police have responded to the wave of protests by indiscriminately using water cannons, teargas, and batons against peaceful protestors.

Expression

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution, but this right is undermined by a repressive legal framework.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Zimbabwe’s constitution, but this right is undermined by a repressive legal framework. Throughout 2015, at least 10 journalists were arrested for writing articles critical of government officials and faced charges under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The government is also developing a Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill that would severely limit citizens’ access to information, monitor private communications, and impose prison sentences on violators. Human rights defender Itai Dzamara was forcible disappeared on 9 March 2015. State authorities, who have denied involvement in his abduction, have conducted no meaningful investigations into his disappearance. In August 2016, Pastor Evan Mawarire- organiser of the #ThisFlag campaign, was forced to flee Zimbabwe on the basis of threats and judicial harassment.