All not well in Zimbabwe – UN envoy


Zimbabwe’s political and economic environment is deteriorating, causing anxiety as hopes fade for any improvement in living conditions, a United Nations human rights envoy said.

Many Zimbabweans are frustrated that the departure in November 2017 of Robert Mugabe, who died on September 6 in Singapore, did not lead to an economic recovery and end heavy-handed tactics by authorities.

The International Monetary Fund said Harare needed to intensify reform efforts.

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, a UN envoy on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, told reporters after a 10-day fact-finding visit Zimbabweans were questioning the capacity of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to bring about change.

“Albeit the common belief that transformation will come, I believe the long-awaited hopes are fading,” Nyaletsossi said.

“I perceive from my meetings around the country there is a serious deterioration of the political, economic and social environment since August 2018, resulting in fear, frustration and anxiety among a large number of Zimbabweans.”

Nick Mangwana, the information ministry’s permanent secretary and principal spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

Mnangagwa’s disputed election win last year was met by a security crackdown that killed six people, while more than a dozen people died in January when security forces quelled fuel protests that turned violent.

Government arrested scores of civil society and opposition officials after the January protests and charged them with subversion, which carries a 20-year jail term.

Nyaletsossi said Harare authorities should withdraw charges against civil society leaders to build trust between government and non-governmental organisations as well as stop surveillance of the groups by state security agents.

Nyaletsossi, who will present his report at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting next June, urged Mnangagwa’s government to amend security laws to allow peaceful protests and remove a blanket ban on demonstrations.

Last month, the police and courts banned the main opposition party from holding countrywide protests over Mnangagwa’s handling of the economy, saying the demonstrations posed a security threat.