Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic. The country elected Emmerson Mnangagwa president for a five-year term in July 2018 in general elections. Despite incremental improvements from past elections, domestic and international observers noted serious concerns and called for further reforms necessary to meet regional and international standards for democratic elections. Numerous factors contributed to a flawed overall election process, including: the Zimbabwe Election Commission’s (ZEC) lack of independence; heavily biased state media favoring the ruling party; voter intimidation; unconstitutional influence of tribal leaders; disenfranchisement of alien and diaspora voters; failure to provide a preliminary voters roll in electronic format; politicization of food aid; security services’ excessive use of force; and lack of precision and transparency around the release of election results. The election resulted in the formation of a government led by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party with a supermajority in the National Assembly but not in the Senate.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) maintains internal security. The Department of Immigration and the ZRP, both under the Ministry of Home Affairs, are primarily responsible for migration and border enforcement. Although the ZRP is officially under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Office of the President directed some ZRP roles and missions in response to civil unrest. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force constitute the Zimbabwe Defense Forces under the Minister of Defense. The police report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the military reports to the Ministry of Defense. The Central Intelligence Organization, under the Office of the President, engages in both internal and external security matters. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces; torture and arbitrary detention by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; the worst forms of government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; restrictions on political participation; widespread acts of corruption; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting women and girls; and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although not enforced.
Impunity remained a problem. The government took very few steps to identify or investigate officials who committed human rights abuses, and there were no reported arrests or prosecutions of such persons.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
Although the constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot, this right was restricted. The political process continued to be heavily biased in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party, which dominated politics and government.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively or impartially, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Despite government pronouncements, corruption remained a severe problem that experts described as “catch and release” where the government arrested corrupt officials but never prosecuted their crimes. Police frequently arrested citizens for low-level corruption while ignoring reports implicating high-level businesspersons and politicians.
Corruption: Corruption in both the public and private sectors persisted. The country continued to experience both petty and grand corruption, defined respectively by Transparency International Zimbabwe as an “everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- to mid-level public officials” and “an abuse of high-level power by political elites.”
In May 2018 the president created an anticorruption body within the Office of the President to conduct investigations, bypassing the constitutionally mandated Zimbabwe Anticorruption Commission (ZACC). On January 31, the president dismissed the ZACC board on allegations of incompetence and appointed Loice Matanda-Moyo as the new ZACC chairperson. Matanda-Moyo was a former High Court judge and wife of Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo. She dismissed concerns about her impartiality due to her marriage and insisted she would take a hardline approach and do her job without fear or favor. On July 15, President Mnangagwa swore in eight new commissioners and gave the new ZACC arresting powers. A week later ZACC acted on an audit firm’s report and arrested Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Hospitality Industry Priscilla Mupfumira on seven counts of corruption linked to a reported embezzlement of more than $95 million from the National Social Security Authority. There was concern, however, the ZACC was targeting high-profile officials who were rumored to have fallen out of favor with President Mnangagwa, raising concern the government’s anticorruption efforts were highly politicized.
Implementation of the government’s redistribution of expropriated white-owned commercial farms often favored the ZANU-PF elite and continued to lack transparency (see section 1.f.). High-level ZANU-PF officials selected numerous farms and registered them in the names of family members to evade the government’s policy of one farm per official. The government continued to allow individuals aligned with top officials to seize land not designated for acquisition. The government began the mandated comprehensive land audit in 2018 to reflect land ownership accurately. Landowners connected to ZANU-PF routinely sold land to citizens but refused to transfer ownership officially or to develop the land as agreed upon in contracts. The government announced its intention to partially compensate farmers whose lands had been expropriated and began making small, initial payments to a subset of farmers most in need.
The Ministry of Finance made progress in removing unqualified persons from the state payroll by removing thousands of youth officers from various ministries. According to the most recent audit, illicit salary payments were made to large numbers of persons who were retired, deceased, or otherwise absent from their place of employment. Duplicate personally identifiable information in files indicated some persons received multiple salaries. The government was implementing a biometric registration system for civil servants to reduce improper salary payments.
The Office of the Auditor General released its annual report in June exposing corruption, including Air Zimbabwe’s inability to verify more than $13 million in spending or fully account for its fleet. It also reported six million dollars in contracts clandestinely awarded to Zimbabwe National Roads Administration officials and board members. The report received extensive media coverage, but targeted ZANU-PF officials dismissed the report as exaggerated or falsified. The report attributed 80 percent of its concerns on state-owned enterprises to “governance issues.” The report also exposed poor maintenance of accounting records in some ministries, with some diverting funds for improper purposes while others paid for goods and services not delivered.
Financial Disclosure: The law does not require elected or appointed officials to disclose income or assets.