Civic space shrinking and freedoms declining in Zimbabwe, says Amnesty

Zimbabweans are marking forty-three years of independence from colonial rule amid the reality of a rapidly shrinking civic space, including criminalisation of dissent and targeting of political activists and human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.

Flavia Mwangovya, the Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa said Forty-three years after independence, authorities are yet to guarantee in practice the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly which are increasingly being threatened despite being guaranteed under the constitution and international law.

Mwangovya said right to freedom of peaceful assembly has continuously been violated and undermined with the authorities refusing to give clearance for some of the main opposition party’s rallies, arresting and convicting peaceful protesters and using unnecessary and excessive force to stop protests.

Mwangovya continued to say that as Zimbabwe approaches elections later this year, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly have come under increasing attack. Dissenting voices are being criminalised, with some opposition activists put in lengthy pre-trial detentions.

“Authorities must stop criminalizing dissent and ensure the levelling of the playing field as the country fast approaches the elections. The opposition must be free to carry out their campaigns and individuals and groups must be protected from politically motivated violence.

“Authorities must promote, protect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as guarantee the socio-economic rights of every Zimbabwean,” said Mwangovya.

Zimbabwe gained independence from the British colonial rule on 18 April 1980. Today marks forty-three years of independence. However, as Amnesty International’s 2022/23 annual report highlights, there has been a worrying trend toward the closing of civic space in Zimbabwe, with the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly being threatened. Members and supporters of the main opposition party have been violently attacked at political rallies.