Crisis without Limits: Human Rights and Humanitarian Consequences of Political Repression in Zimbabwe

January 2009

, by HRW

Zimbabwe is in a humanitarian crisis that is the result of a political crisis. A cholera epidemic has-as of January 12, 2009-left over 39,000 people infected and at least 2,000 dead, with the disease spreading to neighboring countries. This marks both the collapse of Zimbabwe’s healthcare system and the calculated disregard for the welfare of Zimbabweans by the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The country is experiencing the sharpest rise in infant mortality in its history, and maternal mortality rates have tripled since the mid-90s. Meanwhile, over five million Zimbabweans face severe food shortages and are dependent on international aid. Making matters worse, ZANU-PF’s repeated political interference in the work of humanitarian agencies and its attempts to conceal the extent of the disaster have severely hampered international efforts to help tackle these multiple crises.

ZANU-PF’s longstanding assault on political freedoms and civil rights lies at the heart of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis. While political violence, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detentions by the government of President Robert Mugabe peaked in the weeks leading up to the run-off presidential elections in June 2008, they have continued to the present as ZANU-PF uses repression to back its dubious claim to power. Over 40 supporters from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and human rights activists have "disappeared" or been arbitrarily detained since November 2008. ZANU-PF controlled police units continue to violently break up peaceful protests, and routinely arrest and harass MDC activists.

* Read the report Crisis without Limits