A Promise in Peril
In April 1980, hopes around the world were high that the newly independent Zimbabwe might represent a bastion of democracy.
But a mere six months later, those hopes would quickly be dashed as then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe increasingly tasked government forces to take aggressive and violent actions against dissidents with impunity. Most notably, Mugabe had Zimbabwe’s Fifth Brigade murder and execute an estimated 20,000 civilians in the run up to the 1985 parliamentary elections, which led his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to be established as Zimbabwe’s de facto ruling party.
Since then, Mugabe, now president, and ZANU-PF have exercised nearly unchecked political power, altering the constitution over a dozen times and employing state-sponsored violence to systematically intimidate opponents and curtail the legitimate work of journalists and civil society.
As Zimbabwe prepares for its 2013 elections, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights led a delegation trip to the country to meet with leading government officials, civil society leaders, legal practitioners, and human rights defenders on the current political climate. The following report documents their observations and how such widespread intimidation and violence have severely compromised Zimbabwe’s electoral environment.