Zimbabwe’s transition: prioritise restraint and respect for human rights

Johannesburg - Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to continue to exercise restraint and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens during this period of political transition.

The resignation of President Robert Mugabe marked an end to 37 years of brutal repression of fundamental rights and the lack of respect of the rule of law.  The Defence Forces, Parliamentarians, politicians and all other stakeholders must uphold the rights of all as enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution.

Said Evan Mawarire, human rights defender in Zimbabwe: “We are excited as a nation at the prospects of the future. However, it is important that we remain vigilant especially on matters to do with human rights and democracy. Much work needs to be done to reassure the Zimbabwean citizenry that our constitution is still the supreme law of the land. apart from that the opportunity to work together for a new Zimbabwe is what we must now seize and make the most of.”

President Mugabe was forced to resign after a stand-off with the military that lasted for about a week and following a decision by the Zimbabwean African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to recall him as President and First Secretary of the party. His resignation came as Parliament commenced impeachment proceedings against him. Thousands of Zimbabweans had demonstrated peacefully in Harare on 18 November calling for him to step down and students at the University of Zimbabwe re-echoed these calls when they protested on 20 November.  

Under President Mugabe, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has been volatile and the government deviated from its human rights commitments.  Human defenders and civil society activists were targeted, intimidated imprisoned and some fled the country while others simply disappeared.  Some who called for political and democratic reforms were judicially prosecuted and charged with treason. 

“The basic rights of Zimbabweans were trampled upon for more than three decades and the departure of President Mugabe presents a unique opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.  The transitional period is crucial for the future of democracy and must be underpinned by human rights considerations.” Said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns lead, CIVICUS. 

As Zimbabwe heads to elections in 2018, the leaders of the transition should uphold the constitution, respect the rule of law and avoid actions or statements that will derail the transition. 

CIVICUS calls on the military and all political actors to live up to Zimbabwe’s constitutional and international human rights obligations. We urge the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to promote meaningful dialogue for all concerned. 


For more information, contact:

David Kode

Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS,

Tel: + 27 (0)11 833 5959.

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Senior Media Advisor


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