In association with Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark
The intention of this report, as with the two previous PHR-DK reports this year, is to focus on patterns of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, as observed by the authors, or as reported to them by victims and key informants. A task force from Denmark visited Zimbabwe and their findings are summarised here. This report covers the time period August to October 2002.
It is apparent that torture of the opposition and the political manipulation of food increased significantly in the weeks before and immediately after the Rural District Council elections of 28th and 29th September. Abuse included destruction of houses and property both before and after the elections, as well as physical torture of individuals. Similar patterns of abuses were noted in relation to the Insiza parliamentary by-election of 26th and 27th October. This is in accordance with previous findings by ourselves and other commentators that political abuses are directly linked to elections, and that persons who are perceived to be supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are the most likely victims of such abuses. Supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF continue to be the most common perpetrators of political human rights abuses.
Abuse of food has become an entrenched means of intimidating populations perceived as hostile to Zanu-PF.
This is now more widely acknowledged than it was a few months ago, including within diplomatic and international circles.The Zimbabwean government at times admits, and at other times denies, that this is an official or condoned policy.
This report documents incidents that point towards systematic control of who has the right to purchase food from the government controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB). It further documents exclusion of perceived MDC supporters from the right to participate in government “money/food for work” schemes.
As in the May report, this report once more documents political abuse of donor food. While it must be clearly stated that by no means all, or even most, donor feeding schemes are being subjected to political manipulation, attempts by the Zimbabwean government to use donor food as a weapon to punish those supporting the opposition has become more blatant and widespread in the last two months, at the very same time that hunger has become more widespread.
This has resulted in a US Government official stating on 4th November 2002 that they would consider “very intrusive and interventionist measures to ensure food is delivered to all Zimbabweans who need it, regardless of political affiliation”.