While in Section 53, the Constitution expressly outlaws torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the lack of legislation that criminalises abduction and enforced disappearances has created a gap in domestic law and fuelled impunity.
ZHLR said the recent surge in reported cases of enforced disappearances, particularly targeting government critics, highlights the urgency for Zimbabwean authorities to establish a legal framework that prevents such grave human rights violations and ensures justice and redress for victims and their families. ZLHR also called upon both state and non-state actors to take effective measures in preventing enforced disappearances and holding the responsible parties accountable.
Several government critics, including opposition members and human rights defenders, have made claims of being abducted by suspected state security agents. Some notable cases include Itai Dzamara, a well-known activist advocating for political change, he was abducted in 2015 and has not been seen since.
Another one is Jestina Mukoko, a human rights activist and journalist. She was abducted in 2008 and held incommunicado for several weeks before being charged with plotting to overthrow the government. Tawanda Muchehiwa, a journalism student, was abducted in 2020 and allegedly tortured by suspected state security agents. Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova claimed that they were abducted by suspected state security agents in 2020 after participating in a protest and reportedly subjected to torture and sexual assault.
The government denies these allegations, claiming they are staged to tarnish its image. Authorities often attribute the abductions to a “third force” aiming to discredit the government. Some analysts argue that these abductions are intended to instil fear among government critics who expose human rights violations and mismanagement by the government.