Human rights defenders under siege – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

Human rights organisations have complained to the United Nations of a worsening situation in Zimbabwe. They sent a joint letter to the UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights’ Defenders, which was also copied to six other UN Special Rapporteurs.


The letter said Zimbabwe was under siege as citizens’ rights continued to be violated. ‘We write to call your attention to the disturbing trend in Zimbabwe of weaponising the criminal justice system to stifle dissent and suppress the activities of human rights defenders and journalists.’

It continued: ‘We are particularly concerned that the arrests and charges against individuals are politically motivated and violate their human rights, including their personal liberty and freedom of expression.’

The letter also expressed concern over the proposed Patriotic Bill, which will criminalise Zimbabweans speaking negatively about Zimbabwe on international platforms (see:

Meanwhile non-governmental organisations in Masvingo have been summoned to a meeting with the provincial development co-ordinator, Jefta Sakupwanya, next week. New Zimbabwe quotes sources as saying he wants to ‘clip their wings’.

Sakupwanya’s counterpart in Harare, Tafadzwa Muguti, started the crackdown when he ordered NGOs based there to report to his office. They have refused, saying his directive had no legal force (see:

A Zimbabwean NGO, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), has expressed fear of violence with national elections looming in 2023. RAU called for the military to be confined to barracks ahead of the elections and for the prosecution of anyone making hate speech to avoid a bloodbath.

RAU consultant Tony Reeler points to a survey by the research organisation Afrobarometer, which indicates that a majority of Zimbabweans are dissatisfied with the government. ‘Only 48% trust President Emmerson Mnangagwa and this suggests the increasing probability that the 2023 elections will be very violent. It is worth noting further that elections are usually violent where Zanu PF’s hold on the presidency is seriously challenged.’

He said that, looking at the statistics, no ruling party in a ‘normal country’ would win an election (see: The Vigil believes that Zimbabwe is by no means a normal country.

Other Points:

  • The beleaguered human rights organisations in Zimbabwe have expressed concern at the situation of vulnerable groups after a new lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Samuel Wadzai, speaking on behalf of vendors, opposed the reintroduction of exceptions which allow police and government employees to do their jobs but not vendors. Many vendors have ignored the rules. Lucia Mtetwa, who sells second hand clothes, told Voice of America: ‘I only see corruption increasing because of these letters because everyone wants to go somewhere – with an exemption letter or not. This only gives police an advantage. They will start demanding bribes as they were doing during the last time during the lockdown.’ (See:
  • But not all the news from Zimbabwe is gloomy. The country could be saved by mbanje according to Tino Kambasha of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency. Zimbabwe has opened up cannabis farming to encourage investment in hemp for industrial and medicinal uses. Kambasha said: ‘it’s a market that is growing fast and we think it’s going to be a game-changer for this country’ (see:
  • South Africa’s previous president Jacob Zuma is in prison for refusing to testify to a corruption commission, a move that shows how the South African judiciary – unlike Zimbabwe’s – is still independent. During his nine years in office he is alleged to have looted state-owned enterprises on a mind-boggling scale. A leading article in the UK Times newspaper says the jailing of Zuma is an important step on the road to returning to the founding ideals of the post-apartheid state (see:
  • Because of the coronavirus we can no longer physically meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, so we have a virtual Vigil while the restrictions continue. We ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site: Our virtual Vigil activists today were Jacob Mandipira and Grace Munyanyi who both kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
  • For Vigil pictures check: Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.



  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organisation based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organisation on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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