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Violent attacks on political leaders persisted, while recalls of some opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions.
Political violence targeted opposition, causing outrage. Gunmen 1 Nov abducted Takudzwa Ngadziore, MP from main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in capital Harare, with legislator tortured and released later that day. Body of CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya found 13 Nov, days after armed men abducted him in Harare; Masaya was campaigning for CCC candidate in parliamentary by-election scheduled for 9 Dec. U.S. embassy 14 Nov called for full investigation and end to political violence, while UN human rights office 17 Nov urged authorities to keep their pledge to investigate Masaya’s killing, hold perpetrators accountable in fair trials. High Court 28 Nov overturned lower court’s conviction of Job Sikhala, CCC deputy chairman, for obstructing justice; Sikhala, however, remained behind bars facing other charges.
Confusion over recalls of opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions. Political tensions ran high ahead of 9 Dec by-elections for several parliamentary seats won by CCC candidates in Aug elections; re-runs come after self-proclaimed secretary-general of CCC, Sengezo Tshabangu, in Oct recalled 15 members of National Assembly, claiming they were no longer party members, and High Court 4 Nov dismissed affected lawmakers’ request to be reinstated. Confusion persisted as Tshabangu 14 Nov recalled another 13 National Assembly members, with CCC lawyers saying new recalls contradict High Court order issued earlier same day temporarily blocking him from doing so. CCC throughout month continued to accuse ruling ZANU-PF party of orchestrating recalls.
Opposition continued to call for re-run of August elections, while controversy over fake letters recalling some MPs fuelled political tensions.
Opposition continued to dismiss Aug general elections as fraudulent. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 2 Oct called for new elections under international supervision, with “independent and professional” body in place of current electoral commission. Police 16 Oct banned CCC protest march in Bulawayo city. In response, CCC 18 Oct said it is “fundamental constitutional right” of citizens to protest election outcome, and warned that “when all has failed”, citizens might “take matter into [their] own hands”; also said party leader Nelson Chamisa had been mandated to pursue dialogue with President Mnangagwa to find way out of crisis. During extraordinary summit of Southern African Development Community, Angolan President Lourenço 31 Oct congratulated Mnangagwa for “exemplary” elections.
Controversy over fake letters fuelled tensions. Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be interim Sec Gen of CCC, early Oct recalled 15 MPs, saying they had ceased to belong to party. Chamisa immediately dismissed individual as ruling party puppet, but Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda declared seats vacant. Riot police 10 Oct intervened as CCC MPs protested in parliament, and Mudenda suspended all CCC MPs for six parliamentary sittings. Self-proclaimed CCC Sec Gen 10 Oct also said Chamisa had been expelled from CCC, which party denied. CCC 25 Oct said it would boycott by-elections for 15 vacated seats scheduled for 9 Dec.
In another important development. Mnangagwa 20 Oct named Lt Gen Anselem Sanyatwe, under U.S. sanctions for allegedly leading post-2018 election crackdown, as army commander, and 28 Oct appointed defence forces commander Gen Phillip Valerio Sibanda to ZANU-PF politburo; civil society activists including journalist Hopewell Chin’ono immediately decried move as unconstitutional.
Fallout from contested August elections continued as opposition called for election re-run and tensions ran high with Southern Africa’s regional body.
Opposition called for rerun of controversial general elections. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 1 Sept called for re-run of general elections held 23 August and nationwide protests, reiterating process was marred by irregularities and uneven playing field. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition of local civil society groups throughout month called for Southern African Development Community (SADC)-led dialogue to end crisis. Meanwhile, repression of opposition continued after vote. Unidentified assailants 2 Sept abducted and beat CCC elected official in capital Harare. Police 12 Sept briefly detained two CCC elected officials over alleged assassination attempt and malicious damage to property that occurred on election day, and 23 Sept arrested CCC mayor of Bindura town on fraud charges.
President Mnangagwa inaugurated amid persistent tensions with SADC. Mnangagwa sworn in for second presidential term 4 Sept in ceremony attended by South African President Ramaphosa, Mozambique President Nyusi and other leaders; Southern African Development Community (SADC) chair, Angolan President Lourenço, and Zambian President Hichilema, who heads SADC Organ Troika, however did not attend. In inaugural address, Mnangagwa accused foreigners of trying to “sponsor mayhem”. Govt 11 Sept accused Zambia of “treacherous lobbying” over Lusaka’s efforts to convene extraordinary SADC summit on Zimbabwe’s elections. SADC Organ Troika 27 Sept held meeting to discuss elections and criticised govt’s attempts to undermine SADC mission’s credibility; govt minister next day portrayed Hichilema as West’s “puppet”.
Multiple observation missions reported widespread irregularities in general elections, casting doubt on legitimacy of vote which saw President Mnangagwa declared winner of second term.
Election authorities Mnangagwa re-elected in elections marred by irregularities. Electoral commission 26 Aug declared President Mnangagwa winner of presidential election held 23 Aug with 52.6% of vote against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s 44%; ruling party ZANU-PF also won 136 of 210 parliamentary seats against 73 for main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Chamisa 27 Aug alleged “gigantic fraud” and 29 Aug called for elections rerun. Conduct of elections could also hamper Zimbabwe’s re-engagement drive with international partners, as most international election observers said vote was marred by irregularities and poor organisation, while pre-election environment was largely favourable to ZANU-PF. Notably, in departure from past statements on elections in Zimbabwe, Southern African Development Community (SADC) 25 Aug said elections “fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe”, citing curbs on freedom of assembly and judicial capture. In response, Mnangagwa 27 Aug criticised outside observers for “interrogat[ing] institutions of a sovereign government”.
Lead-up to vote and election day marred by violence and repression. NGO Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded 84 human rights violations related to elections in first half of Aug, including arson, assaults, kidnapping threats and intimidation. Notably, suspected ZANU-PF activists 3 Aug ambushed and killed CCC supporter near campaign rally in capital Harare; police arrested 10 people in connection with case. Police 15 Aug also arrested 40 CCC members including MP candidate for allegedly blocking traffic and disrupting order during campaign event in Harare suburb. On voting day, journalist and opposition figure Hopewell Chin’ono 23 Aug accused ZANU-PF supporters and officials of intimidating voters outside polling stations, also criticised electoral commission’s lack of preparedness as authorities extended voting to 24 Aug in some wards amid delayed distribution of ballot papers. Police 24 Aug arrested 41 election monitors from civil society groups, accusing them of trying to disrupt voting process by releasing unofficial vote results from independent count.
Ahead of general elections set for 23 August, opposition candidates continued to face restrictions, and President Mnangagwa enacted bill critics say will be used to prohibit criticism of govt.
Govt and opposition remained at loggerheads weeks before elections. Police 7 July banned main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) rally scheduled for 9 July in capital Harare, citing lack of suitable facilities; ban upheld in court 9 July after CCC contested decision. High Court 12 July barred former ruling party official and late President Mugabe loyalist, Saviour Kasukuwere, from running for president, saying he has lived outside of country for over 18 months, and Supreme Court 28 July confirmed his disqualification; Kasukuwere’s camp denounced attempt by ruling party to exclude him from race. Elisabeth Valerio 19 July won appeal against electoral commission’s decision to bar her from running for president, becoming only female candidate in presidential election. EU observer mission 22 July arrived in country.
Controversial “patriotic bill” signed into law. President Mnangagwa 14 July enacted Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill criminalising “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”, de facto prohibiting criticism of govt. Opposition, lawyers, and human rights groups continued to oppose bill, saying it may be used to curtail freedoms ahead of August votes. Notably, NGO Amnesty International 15 July denounced “brutal assault on civil space”
Tensions simmered ahead of general elections scheduled for August as authorities continued to harass opposition and advanced bill curtailing political freedoms.
Opposition protested bill curtailing political freedoms. Both houses of parliament 31 May-7 June passed Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill criminalising “willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. In response, main opposition party Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) described bill as “dangerous and unconstitutional”, said it was designed to punish citizens, civil society organisations and political adversaries of ruling ZANU-PF party ahead of general elections due in August. NGO Amnesty International 9 June denounced “disturbing crackdown on Zimbabweans’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”, and called on President Mnangagwa not to sign bill into law.
Authorities continued to stifle dissent. Security forces 2 June detained five CCC activists, including one candidate for upcoming elections, following altercation with suspected ruling ZANU-PF party supporters at voter registration centre in Midlands region; all five remanded in custody next day on various charges including assault. Authorities 12 June charged 39 CCC supporters with political violence for allegedly attacking ZANU-PF office in Nyatsime locality, just south of capital Harare in Mashonaland East region.
Final list of presidential candidates disclosed. Electoral authority 22 June said 11 candidates will run for presidency in August, including Mnangagwa, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, and exiled former ruling party official Saviour Kasukuwere.
Clampdown on govt critics in run-up to general elections sparked outcry, and Constitutional Court rejected bid to postpone vote now scheduled for 23 August.
Conviction of high-profile opposition figure sparked outcry. Court in capital Harare 3 May sentenced prominent lawmaker from main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Job Sikhala, to pay $600 fine for obstruction of justice or else serve six months in prison; Sikhala remained in custody awaiting trial on other charges, including inciting violence. CCC leader Nelson Chamisa next day condemned “unjust and unfair” verdict, demanded immediate release of Sikhala and “all political prisoners”. European Union delegation in Zimbabwe 3 May called on country’s judiciary to protect fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and NGO Amnesty International also next day said sentence was “further evidence of an escalating crackdown on peaceful dissent”. In response, ruling party Zanu-PF around 7 May said Zimbabwe’s judicial system is free of political interference.
Election preparations went ahead despite challenges from opposition. Constitutional Court 8 May dismissed application by Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai opposition party leader Douglas Mwonzora seeking postponement of general elections on grounds that electoral commission’s constituency delimitation report is null and void; Mwonzora same day decried ruling as politically motivated. After electoral commission 27-31 May made voter roll available for public inspection, CCC signalled “serious anomalies” including registered voters missing or misplaced in list. President Mnangagwa 31 May scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections for 23 August.
Calls for postponement of upcoming general elections persisted, and authorities continued to criminalise dissent.
Controversy over constituency delimitation report cast doubt on 2023 vote. Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party leader Douglas Mwonzora (opposition) 3 April said electoral commission’s constituency delimitation report would produce “unfair and un-credible elections”; statement comes after MDC-T in March filed Constitutional Court application seeking postponement of general elections scheduled for summer. Local advocacy group Election Resource Centre 12 April said suspending elections would threaten country’s democracy, and constitution provides that old boundaries apply if new delimitation report is completed less than six months before elections or deemed unconstitutional. President Mnangagwa 19 April vowed to proclaim election date in late May. Ruling party Zanu-PF second secretary Kembo Mohadi 20 April said party had reached agreements with traditional leaders to secure votes. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy spokesperson Gift “Ostallos” Siziba few days later expressed concern about vote buying and exploitation of traditional leaders.
Opposition continued to face judicial harassment. Court 5 April sentenced CCC lawmaker and spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, to pay fine on charges of “communicating falsehoods”; however acquitted her of “promoting and inciting public violence”. NGO Amnesty International next day said sentence showed “escalating assault on freedom of expression”, 18 April lamented “rapidly shrinking civic space”, including criminalisation of dissent and targeting of political activists and human rights defenders. Mahere 26 April filed appeal. Court in Harare 28 April sentenced Transform Zimbabwe opposition party activist Jacob Ngarivhume to four years in prison (including one suspended) for “inciting public violence” in 2020.
Ahead of general elections due this summer, courts dismissed legal challenges to electoral process and paved the way for high-profile trial of opposition leader.
Courts dismissed cases over electronic voters’ roll, constituency delimitation report. Harare High Court 7 March dismissed main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator Allan Markham’s case demanding release of electronic voters’ roll to the public ahead of general elections due in July or August; Markham later in month filed appeal at Supreme Court. Civil society group Team Pachedu in March repeatedly warned of possible mayhem in next elections due to irregularities in electoral commission’s constituency delimitation report, notably erroneous demarcation of wards. Constitutional Court 20 March dismissed application by ruling party Zanu-PF member Tonderai Chidawa to nullify constituency delimitation report. Political party Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) late March also filed Constitutional Court application seeking postponement of elections by six months to make time for revision of delimitation report. Voter registration concluded 26 March.
Ruling party held chaotic primary elections. Zanu-PF 25 March held primaries to select members who will represent party in upcoming general elections; voting extended to 26 March as some candidates’ names were missing from registers, while ballots were not delivered in some areas. In run-up to vote, skirmishes between supporters of rival candidates 20 March left several Zanu-PF activists injured in Chegutu West constituency, Mashonaland West province.
Prominent opposition lawmaker remained behind bars. Court in capital Harare 16 March refused to dismiss case against prominent CCC lawmaker, Job Sikhala, paving the way for high-profile trial in run-up to general elections; Sikhala has been held in custody since June 2022 on accusations of inciting public violence.
Political tensions remained high ahead of general elections, as new boundaries for constituencies and wards faced backlash.
Politically motivated violence continued to run high. Members of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and ruling Zanu-PF party 12 Feb clashed at CCC rallies in towns of Gokwe (Midlands province) and Chivi (Masvingo province); both sides traded blame for violence. Authorities 18 Feb arrested CCC councillor in Masvingo city (Masvingo province) for holding unauthorised meeting at his house. CCC leader Nelson Chamisa 26 Feb called out President Mnangagwa over banned rallies and continued persecution of party activists.
Mnangagwa gazetted constituency delimitation report despite opposition. Electoral commission 3 Feb presented final delimitation report to Mnangagwa, with commission president saying constituency and ward boundaries had been redrawn following feedback received in Jan. Opposition and civil society however said new delimitation of constituencies and wards tilts electoral playing field in favour of Zanu-PF. Notably, opposition Movement for Democratic Change 6 Feb said elections may be null and void because of massive defects in delimitation exercise, while CCC around 17 Feb said Zanu-PF was resorting to “their usual dirty tactics of violating the Constitution, political violence and electoral malpractices”. Mnangagwa 20 Feb gazetted delimitation report, setting stage for general elections in July-Aug.
Senate passed controversial amendment to Private Voluntary Organisations Act. Senate 1 Feb approved amendment bill to Private Voluntary Organisations Act meant to counter terrorism and money laundering by giving govt greater control of NGOs and other non-profits. CCC VP Tendai Biti next day warned of “unprecedented attack on human rights defenders”, while UN experts 14 Feb urged Mnangagwa to refrain from enacting bill, warning it would “severely restrict civic space and the right to freedom of association”. Mnangagwa 19 Feb said bill will protect country from “foreign interests” and vowed to sign it into law.
Harassment of opposition supporters continued months away from general elections, and constituency delimitation report faced fierce criticism.
Main opposition party members faced violence and arrests. Mob 7 Jan assaulted members of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) during party meeting in Murehwa town, north east of capital Harare, reportedly leaving seven injured; CCC accused ruling ZANU-PF party of unleashing vigilantes ahead of general elections slated for mid-2023. Police 14 Jan stormed CCC legislator’s home in Budiriro, Harare suburb, detained 26 party activists over accusations of holding illegal gathering. NGO Amnesty International 17 Jan called for their immediate release, condemned “escalating crackdown against freedom of association and assembly” in run-up to elections. All activists granted bail 27 Jan.
Report on delimitation of constituencies criticised across party lines. Govt 6 Jan presented electoral commission’s preliminary report on delimitation of constituencies to both houses of parliament. Ad-hoc committee of 13 legislators charged with examining report 13 Jan criticised document, saying electoral commission must use final census results and ensure equal number of voters in all constituencies as provided for by constitution. NGO Zimbabwe Democracy Institute 13 Jan said preliminary report showed capture of electoral system “through gerrymandering, calculated to disorient the main opposition and benefit the ruling party”, and civil society platform Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition around 20 Jan said delimitation process fraught with irregularities and part of broader scheme to rig elections in favour of ZANU-PF. Meanwhile, opposition People’s Unity Party late Jan vowed to hold nationwide demonstrations on 25 March in attempt to stop elections.
Political atmosphere remained tense months away from general elections, and NGOs expressed concern that new anti-money-laundering bill could further shrink space for civil society.
Political tensions remained high ahead of general elections. Police 10 Dec reportedly detained two members of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) who were assaulted late Nov by suspected ruling Zanu-FP party supporters in Gutu district; mid-Dec banned two CCC rallies in capital Harare. Zanu-PF senior officials late Dec rejected electoral commission’s recent report on delimitation of electoral boundaries, saying it favours opposition, and vowed to have it nullified in court. Opposition party People’s Unity Party 30 Dec called on all opposition parties to boycott general elections scheduled for July-August, citing fears polls will further divide country.
Parliament’s lower house adopted bill which could further restrict civic space. National Assembly 16 Dec passed Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill granting govt unfettered access to NGOs and other voluntary organisations’ operations, including budgets, plans and funding sources, and power to delist or enlist them; govt said bill, which still needs Senate’s approval before President Mnangagwa signs it into law, is necessary to combat money laundering. Opposition lawmakers immediately requested further debate, saying bill had been passed without their knowledge, while civil society platform Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition around 18 Dec said text, if passed in its current form, would lead to closure of several NGOs, further restricting civil society space.
U.S. sanctioned president’s son for corruption and human rights abuses. U.S. Treasury Dept 12 Dec announced new sanctions on four individuals and two Zimbabwean entities for corruption and human rights abuses, including Emmerson Mnangagwa Jr., son of President Mnangagwa.
Ahead of 2023 general elections, relations between govt and opposition remained tense.
Authorities continued to stifle dissent. About 30 alleged supporters of ruling ZANU-PF party 8 Nov disrupted press conference by main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in capital Harare despite police presence, seizing party banners and other materials. National housing and social amenities minister and ZANU-PF’s Mashonaland East provincial chairperson, Daniel Garwe, 12 Nov told supporters that “courts, military and police belong to ZANU-PF” and that party was preparing whip to “fight back” against those who insult President Mnangagwa. Meanwhile, Magistrates Court in Harare 9 Nov granted bail to CCC parliament member Godfrey Sithole, who was arrested in June alongside his colleague Job Sikhala on charges of inciting violence following killing of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali; Sikhala remained in custody after ninth attempt to secure bail late Nov failed. In move widely interpreted as clampdown on govt critics, govt 22 Nov adopted new legislation that will criminalise behaviour deemed as undermining “national interests and sovereignty”.
Opposition pressured authorities to create conditions for competitive polls. Opposition parties, including CCC, mid-Nov urged govt to expedite establishment of Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission to investigate acts of misconduct by members of security forces. Two civil society organisations – Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Election Resource Centre – 6 Nov announced legal complaint against electoral commission over $187,000 fee that commission requires to provide voters list.
Attacks on opposition supporters continued as political temperature heated up ahead of 2023 general elections.
Campaign for 22 Oct local govt by-elections marred by violence. Alleged ruling party Zanu-PF supporters 16 Oct stoned convoy carrying main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmaker in Matobo district, Matabeleland South province, leaving several women injured; group was campaigning for 22 Oct by-elections in Matobo. Assailants next day reportedly attacked CCC lawmaker Jasmine Toffa and other party members campaigning for 22 Oct by-elections in Insiza district, also Matabeleland South, injuring at least seven; CCC accused Zanu-PF supporters, and CCC candidate in Insiza by-election Augustine Gumede went into hiding in following days. Cases of violence and intimidation reported in at least two other by-election sites. NGO Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and others 18 Oct urged police to investigate all cases of political violence. Electoral commission 20 Oct set general elections for July-Aug 2023. Lawmakers around 27 Oct passed law to establish new institution intended to monitor and investigate allegations of security forces brutality; legislation inspired by recommendations made by commission that investigated post-election violence in 2018.
Clampdown on journalists intensified. Security personnel 8 Oct reportedly assaulted and detained Voice of America journalist Godwin Mangudya as he was covering Zanu-PF party meeting in capital Harare’s Kuwadzana suburb; party officials reportedly seized his cell phones and deleted content. NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 13 Oct reported five journalists “assaulted, harassed, and blocked from covering events” in country 6-10 Oct.
In other important developments. Zanu-PF elective congress late Oct re-elected President Mnangagwa as party’s first secretary, endorsed him as sole party candidate for 2023 presidential election.
In lead-up to 2023 elections, political opposition continued to accuse authorities of harassment; food security crisis loomed large amid runaway inflation.Political tensions continued ahead of 2023 elections. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 11 Sept claimed explosive device same day targeted party leader Nelson Chamisa as he arrived to address rally in Chinhoyi city (Mashonaland West province). CCC denounced “state-sponsored violence” without providing evidence. NGO Amnesty International 21 Sept denounced “continued arbitrary detention” of CCC legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole, who were arrested in June on charges of “inciting violence”, urged Harare to release them “immediately and unconditionally” and “stop criminalizing dissent”. Court 29 Sept sentenced prominent novelist and activist, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and journalist Julie Barnes to six-month suspended prison term on charges of inciting violence during protests in 2020; International NGO Amnesty International next day denounced “travesty of justice”.Report warned of rising food insecurity amid persistent economic crisis. In World Bank food security report published 15 Sept, Zimbabwe (along with Lebanon) topped list of countries worst affected by domestic food price inflation, with real food inflation at 68% on year-on-year basis.
Political tensions heated up months away from 2023 general elections as nomination fees sparked resistance, while ruling party supporters unleashed violence on political opposition. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) around 19 Aug imposed hefty nomination fees to contesting candidates in 2023 general elections, with presidential candidates called to part with $20,000 each, up from $1,000 paid in 2018. ZEC also introduced exorbitant fees to access voters’ roll. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmaker, Tendai Biti, 20 Aug accused elections management body of working in cahoots with ruling party Zanu-PF to shut democratic space ahead of elections, called for street protests to demand reversal of exclusionary tariffs. Suspected Zanu-PF supporters around 23-24 Aug unleashed violence on CCC members, reportedly abducting one of them, in Mashonaland East province’s Wedza and Seke districts as part of efforts to prevent CCC leader, Nelson Chamisa, from addressing his supporters. Ahead of 27 Aug parliamentary by-election for Gokwe-Kabuyuni parliamentary seat (Midlands province), alleged Zanu-PF supporters 25 Aug attacked CCC team during campaign rally in Gokwe area, wounding 13; also assaulted and seriously injured four journalists covering CCC campaign rally. CCC Deputy Chairman and lawmaker Job Sikhala denied bail 30 Aug for fifth time since being detained in June on charges of inciting violence.
Political tensions remained high, and authorities took steps to address soaring inflation. Skirmishes 11 July erupted between ruling ZANU-PF party members during election of Mutare district coordinating committee’s new secretary for youth. Opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change Deputy Chairman Job Sikhala and lawmaker Godfrey Sithole in July remained in detention as courts denied them bail following mid-June arrest on charges of instigating violence. Sikhala around 12 July faced new charges of obstructing or defeating course of justice. Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops 18 July called for “meaningful, inclusive dialogue” to address “growing political volatility brought about by the impending 2023 general elections”. Central Bank 4 July said it will start issuing gold coins as legal tender in effort to tame inflation, and rekindle faith in local currency; over 2,000 gold coins had been issued by late July. Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency 29 July said annual inflation surged to over 250% in July.
Deadly attacks against opposition activists stoked tensions ahead of potentially divisive elections set for 2023. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 8 June said party member Langelihle Zonda Dube had died following same-day attack by armed gang at his home in Bulawayo city. Body of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali, who had been missing since 24 May, found 11 June on outskirts of capital Harare; CCC supporters in following days denounced political killing, which police denied. Violence between CCC and ruling ZANU-PF party supporters 12-13 June disrupted Moreblessing Ali’s funeral in Nyatsime area outside Harare; authorities 14 June arrested CCC lawmakers Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole on charges of inciting violence. Armed individuals 14 June allegedly killed CCC member Edison Chinembiri in Chitungwiza town. CCC 18 June said suspected ZANU-PF activists previous day attacked CCC VP Tendai Biti, and several other party members in Mashonaland Central province, denounced “assassination attempt”. Meanwhile, Bulawayo Court 14 June gave freelance reporter for The New York Times Jeffrey Moyo two-year suspended prison sentence on charges of breaching country’s immigration laws in 2021; Moyo immediately vowed to appeal verdict. Teachers’ union President Obert Masaraure, who has led multiple strikes in recent months, arrested 14 June over alleged involvement in 2o16 murder; High Court 29 June granted him bail.
Ruling party continued to use inflammatory rhetoric against opposition ahead of 2023 general elections; amid hyperinflation, freeze on bank lending prompted harsh opposition, forcing govt to backpedal. Opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa 1 May denied being in talks with President Mnangagwa with view to forming govt of national unity; statement came days after top presidential aide George Charamba claimed Chamisa wanted to defer elections currently scheduled for 2023 and join hands with “cross-party elites” in “pact of dictatorship”. Ruling party ZANU-PF Finance Secretary Patrick Chinamasa 16 May accused CCC leaders of working with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, warned voting for CCC in 2023 elections would bring “war and instability”. CCC 7 May won seven of eight local council by-elections against ZANU-PF. Head of EU electoral mission in Zimbabwe, Elmar Brok, 20 May called for “genuine” electoral reforms ahead of 2023 poll to level electoral playing field. Meanwhile, Mnangagwa 7 May ordered banks to suspend lending services indefinitely in effort to curb speculation against rapidly devaluing local currency. Stakeholders in business sector, including Chamber of Commerce and Industry 9 May, harshly criticised move, warned it would encourage development of parallel banking system and jeopardise economic recovery. Central bank 10 May said bank lending freeze was temporary measure, 17 May lifted ban.
Authorities continued to harass political opposition, and Central Bank raised interest rate amid hyperinflation. Following March legislative by-elections, new MPs sworn in 5 April. Opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa same day urged party’s incoming legislators to prioritise electoral reforms to level electoral playing field ahead of 2023 general elections. Tensions ran high ahead of several local council by-elections scheduled for 7 May: authorities 16 April reportedly detained 14 CCC activists during rally in Mutare city, Manicaland province; residents of Chitungwiza town’s Zengeza West Ward 7 in Harare province mid-month accused ruling party ZANU-PF candidate for by-elections of intimidating electorate during door-to-door campaigns. CCC VP Tendai Biti claimed ZANU-PF representatives 18 April attempted to “kidnap” party activist Makomborero Haruzivishe, denounced President Mnangagwa’s “incorrigible regime with no respect of human rights”. State media stepped up campaign against prominent anti-corruption activist and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. Notably, state broadcaster ZBC late-April claimed Chin’ono acquired goats from govt as part of controversial Command Agriculture scheme, prompting threats from well-known ZANU-PF activist that they would invade Chin’ono’s property in Mukarakate village (Murewa district) to seize his goats; villagers and CCC supporters 30 April reportedly gathered to protect Chin’ono’s estate. Meanwhile, ZANU-PF provincial youth league elections suspended 24 April in Mashonaland West province as party youths traded blows and threatened to kill each other. Amid currency slide and food and fuel price pressures exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Central Bank 4 April raised main interest rate from 60% to record-high 80%, citing escalation in annual inflation to 72.7% in March.
Following tense electoral campaign, main opposition party emerged as major winner in legislative and municipal by-elections. Nelson Chamisa’s newly established Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) won 19 National Assembly seats in 26 March by-elections to fill 28 vacant seats following recalls, deaths and dismissals over last two years; ruling ZANU-PF party won remainder, including two seats previously controlled by opposition, and retains two-thirds majority in parliament. CCC also claimed winning 61% of seats in local govt by-elections. Voter turnout low at 35%. Run-up to elections marred by tensions and violence. Police repeatedly blocked CCC rallies, notably in Marondera city 12 March. CCC next day said Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and police biased in favour of ZANU-PF party, noting ruling party rallies have gone unhindered. Police 17 March allegedly assaulted CCC supporter Muleya Mwananyanda in Harare Central District; NGO Amnesty International next day denounced “brutal and vicious assault”, raised alarm about “partisan policing and torture”. Masvingo High Court 19 March authorised CCC to hold major rally in Masvingo city next day, after CCC filed urgent chamber application seeking reprieve over police ban on rally; brawls erupted between party youths during rally.
Deadly political violence erupted as political parties geared up for March elections; situation could escalate around voting day. President Mnangagwa 12 Feb launched ruling party ZANU-PF’s campaign for long-delayed legislative and municipal by-elections scheduled for 26 March, addressing thousands of supporters at rally near capital Harare. Throughout Feb, main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and civil society organisations denounced raft of attacks against CCC supporters by ruling party members or police. CCC accused ZANU-PF supporters of beating up CCC members with iron bars during campaign rally of opposition party’s VP Tendai Biti in Harare East constituency 16 Feb; ZANU-PF same day denounced unfounded allegations. Video of policemen allegedly assaulting CCC supporters in Harare 18 Feb surfaced on social media; church leaders same day urged govt institutions to conduct peaceful polls and called on security forces to avoid misconduct. CCC said police 19 Feb detained at least 80 opposition supporters who were campaigning in Masvingo city (Masvingo province). Police 20 Feb mounted roadblocks on major axes in Harare in alleged attempt to disrupt CCC’s star rally; addressing thousands of supporters, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa same day accused electoral commission of attempting to rig by-elections by manipulating electoral roll. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum 24 Feb denounced increase in politically motivated violence over past month. Suspected ZANU-PF supporters 27 Feb attacked CCC rally in Kwekwe city (Midlands province), reportedly leaving two dead and over 20 wounded; police arrested 16 people suspected of involvement in violence.
Authorities scheduled long-delayed by-elections for March, and main opposition party changed name. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission 6 Jan announced by-elections to fill 28 vacant parliamentary seats and 105 local govt positions will take place 26 March; by-elections, which govt had banned in Oct 2020 citing COVID-19 pandemic, are seen as mini-general elections ahead of 2023 harmonised polls (which cover local, parliamentary and presidential contests). Youth Coalition on Electoral Reforms 21 Jan expressed “concern over the increasing threat of political violence”, said “young people being coerced to attend political party meetings against their will”. Main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa 24 Jan announced he had registered new party called Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), de facto dropping contested Movement for Democratic Change name and sidestepping factional squabbles and legal disputes. On registration day for by-election candidates, CCC 26 Jan submitted more than one candidate in a handful of wards to contest in municipal elections in Bulawayo and Masvingo cities, risking to divide votes; party Spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere 27 Jan blamed “technical glitch”. Mnangagwa 10 Jan fired controversial State Security Minister Owen Ncube for “conduct unbecoming of a minister”; Ncube, who was implicated in violent factional clashes relating to recent provincial elections, has been on U.S. and UK sanctions lists for several years in connection with human rights violations. Trial of freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo 12 Jan kicked off at Bulawayo magistrates’ court, two days later adjourned to 14 Feb; Moyo faces accusations of helping two New York Times journalists enter Zimbabwe last year using fake accreditation documents.
Political tensions ran high as country gears up for 2023 general elections; series of criminal incidents involved security forces members. Violent outbursts marred ruling party Zanu-PF provincial elections – which will determine delegate composition to 2022 elective congress, where President Mnangagwa’s 2023 presidential bid is expected to be endorsed – in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Midlands provinces. Notably, police 28 Dec fired warning shots following clashes between supporters of Home Affairs Minister Kazeme Kazembe and businessman Tafadzwa Musarara in Centenary town, Mashonaland Central; riot police 29 Dec also intervened in capital Harare to quell violent scuffles between rival Zanu-PF factions over allegations of vote rigging. Meanwhile, suspected Zanu-PF youths 15 Dec stormed meeting of civil society platform Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in Bulawayo city, assaulting participants and reportedly wounding several others. Infighting persisted within opposition ranks. MDC-T party VP Thokozani Khupe mid-Dec filed urgent chamber application at Bulawayo High Court challenging alleged late-Nov decision by party leadership to recall her from parliament. Reports emerged of involvement of security service personnel in series of armed robberies and deadly shootouts; notably, armed assailants including former and serving members of security forces 6 Dec stormed house of former police Detective Joseph Nemaisa in alleged robbery attempt in Harare; suspected soldier 25 Dec shot dead four people in shopping mall in Kadoma district, Mashonaland West. Mnangagwa 22 Dec threatened shoot-to-kill policy to deal with “upsurge in gun-related crimes”. Meanwhile, High Court in Harare 6 Dec dropped charges of inciting public violence brought against prominent investigative journalist and govt critic Hopewell Chin’ono.
President Mnangagwa announced likely by-elections in early 2022, raising prospect of tense political standoffs; police and ruling party militants continued to harass opposition. In unexpected move, Mnangagwa 10 Nov said parliamentary and local council by-elections, to fill 40 and 80 seats respectively, vacant after near two-year moratorium on by-elections officially due to COVID-19 pandemic, will likely be conducted in early 2022; move follows pressure to lift moratorium after 20-month delay, may exacerbate splits in opposition MDC party and internal tensions in ruling ZANU-PF party. Meanwhile, attacks on main opposition party and its leader Nelson Chamisa persisted, as ruling party militants attempted to block Chamisa’s movements during his country tour. Notably, police 11 Nov used teargas in attempt to disrupt Chamisa’s speech at opposition rally in Charumbira communal lands, Masvingo province; ruling party youths later same day reportedly attacked rally.
Political tensions ran high as string of attacks against main opposition party and its leader left dozens injured and infighting within ruling party continued. MDC-A faction of main opposition party accused supporters of ruling ZANU-PF party of torpedoing MDC-A leader Nelson Chamisa’s countrywide tour. Notably, in Masvingo province, suspected ZANU-PF supporters 11 Oct reportedly attacked Chamisa’s convoy in Charumbira area, leaving at least five injured, and 14 Oct allegedly beat and kidnapped six MDC-A members in Gutu district on their way back from meeting addressed by Chamisa. In Manicaland province, anti-riot police 19 Oct raided and dispersed MDC-A meeting and suspected ZANU-PF youths later same day shot at MDC-A convoy on outskirts of Mutare city, hitting Chamisa’s vehicle; MDC-A next day denounced “assassination attempt” on Chamisa. In Mashonaland East province, suspected ZANU-PF 24 Oct reportedly attacked MDC-A members in Goromonzi district, injuring four. In Mashonaland West province, MDC-A members 30 Oct reportedly clashed with ZANU-PF members attempting to block Chamisa from addressing villagers in Zvimba district, leaving scores injured. Infighting continued within ZANU-PF, with President Mnangagwa’s legitimacy contested. Notably, rival factions 10 Oct clashed during ZANU-PF meeting in Manicaland province; police next day arrested 20 for alleged involvement in violence. ZANU-PF member Sybeth Musengezi 20 Oct filed application to Bulawayo High Court challenging legality of Nov 2017 election of Mnangagwa as party leader. Meanwhile, MDC-T faction of main opposition party throughout month reiterated call for suspension of 2023 general elections and formation of govt of national unity; notably, MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora 8 Oct threatened to boycott elections unless govt implements electoral reforms. Following ten-day visit to Zimbabwe to assess impact of sanctions on human rights situation, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan 28 Oct called for lifting of sanctions.
Ruling-party elections revealed internal rifts and deep-rooted factionalism, and Constitutional Court decision marked win for President Mnangagwa. ZANU-PF district elections 25-26 Sept marred by violent intra-party altercations in several provinces including Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Midlands, as well as in capital Harare’s suburb of Epworth; incidents pitted factions aligned to Mnangagwa against those aligned with his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, as each camp sought to secure key positions likely to determine outcome of ZANU-PF’s provincial elections, now scheduled for early 2022. Meanwhile, Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party 4 Sept fired 15 councillors for reportedly attending meeting of rival Douglas Mwonzora-led faction (MDC-T) day before. National Prosecuting Authority 1 Sept announced intention to bar Jacob Mafume, prominent MDC-A official who was in Dec 2020 suspended as mayor of capital Harare, from entering Harare city headquarters, citing risk he could interfere with witnesses as he faces two criminal charges; Local Govt Minister July Moyo 14 Sept suspended Mafume as city councillor. High Court 17 Sept suspended Harare provincial authorities’ July directive requiring NGOs to submit workplans or cease operating; also prohibited authorities from “interfering with, suspending or stopping operations of NGOs” until final ruling on case. Constitutional Court 22 Sept quashed High Court ruling that Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term extension was unconstitutional; Mnangagwa had extended Malaba’s term by five years in May in move critics decried as attempt to consolidate control over judiciary.
Authorities continued to intimidate and threaten opposition and civil society. In reference to Harare provincial authorities’ directive, issued in July, requiring NGOs to submit workplans or cease operations, ruling party ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu 4 Aug backed “blitz” on NGOs, saying sector aims at “demonising” govt; High Court 13 Aug reserved judgement in case challenging directive. As govt pushes for controversial Patriotic Bill which seeks to criminalise support for U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, National Security Minister Owen Ncube mid-Aug said parliament would soon punish “misguided elements who campaign for sanctions and punishment…under the guise of human rights narrative”. Cabinet 31 Aug approved changes to law governing private voluntary organisations, notably prohibiting them from getting involved in politics, citing need to curb money laundering and financing of terrorism. Nelson Chamisa led-faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party 15 Aug congratulated Zambian president-elect, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, for winning 12 Aug election, praised “triumph for democracy in light of growing authoritarian consolidation” in region; Chamisa next day expressed hope that Zambia’s transition of power would “inspire” Zimbabwe ahead of 2023 general elections. In response, ruling ZANU-PF party days later accused MDC-A of “cardinal political immaturity”. President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba 18 Aug said military would not allow Chamisa to “just rule”, suggesting ZANU-PF would not peacefully hand over power if electorally defeated. Meanwhile, govt 21 Aug said it will open talks about compensation for victims of Gukurahundi massacres in 1980s, during which security forces killed some 20,000 people, mostly ethnic Ndebele, as part of violent crackdown in Matabeleland region.
Legal battle over chief justice position continued as authorities sought to restrict space for NGOs. Constitutional Court 16 July reserved judgment in case that challenges High Court ruling invalidating President Mnangagwa’s five-year extension of Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term. Mnangagwa 25 July appointed Justice Mary Zimba-Dube as judge president, responsible for overseeing High Court; Zimba-Dube’s predecessor was removed after justice minister accused him of assigning hostile judges to case in which govt was being sued. Harare High Court 14 July granted bail to Makomborero Haruzivishe, member of main opposition party faction led by Nelson Chamisa; Haruzivishe was sentenced to 14 months in prison in April for allegedly “inciting violence” and “resisting arrest”. After ruling party ZANU-PF’s Acting National Political Commissioner Patrick Chinamasa late June said party would not surrender its “unbreakable” bond with armed forces, Chamisa 4 July reproached ZANU-PF for treating military as party’s armed wing in violation of constitution. UK govt 22 July imposed asset freeze and travel ban on businessman and presidential adviser Kudakwashe Tagwirei for alleged corruption; sanctions also apply to any entity Tagwirei owns or controls. After Harare provincial authorities 29 July said all NGOs that failed to submit workplans by 30 June had to cease operations, two human rights NGOs 30 July filed High Court application seeking to overturn decision.
Legal battles around chief justice position continued and infighting persisted within main opposition party. High Court 10 June dismissed contempt of court application filed in May against Chief Justice Luke Malaba for returning to work despite earlier ruling – which has been appealed – invalidating President Mnangagwa’s extension of his term. Seven former MPs from Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change 4 June challenged their removal from National Assembly in 2020 – following their recall by rival MDC-T faction – before High Court. Douglas Mwonzora, leader of MDC-T faction, 11 June reportedly requested Mnangagwa to call off “divisive” by-elections for local councils and parliament – with seats left vacant after recalls of MDC-A officials in 2020; also reportedly proposed creation of “Parliamentary Dialogue Forum” platform between MDC-T and ruling ZANU-PF party. MDC-A 21 June said Mwonzora was “afraid of an election” and trying “to prolong his illegitimate union with ZANU-PF”. Bulawayo High Court mid-June granted bail to freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo, who was detained in May following accusations of misrepresenting media accreditations of two foreign journalists to immigration authorities.
Standoff emerged between High Court and President Mnangagwa, and intra-party violence erupted within both ruling party and opposition. Following constitutional amendments passed by parliament in April, Mnangagwa 11 May extended term of Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who was scheduled to retire mid-May, by five years. High Court 15 May ruled extension invalid, saying incumbent judges cannot benefit from term extension under Zimbabwe’s constitution. Govt 17 May appealed ruling before Supreme Court, and Malaba 23 May returned to work, saying appeal suspended High Court order; human rights lawyers 25 May filed High Court application seeking Malaba’s arrest on charges of contempt of court. Meanwhile, rival factions of ruling party ZANU-PF 8 May clashed in Makonde district, Mashonaland West province; police subsequently arrested four, who were granted bail 13 May. Violence next day erupted during meeting of Douglas Mwonzora-led faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) in capital Harare; MDC-T 10 May said supporters of rival faction, Nelson Chamisa-led MDC-A, had stabbed and injured five MDC-T members, which MDC-A denied. Meanwhile, High Court 5 May granted bail to MDC-A MP Joana Mamombe and youth leader Cecilia Chimbiri; both women under detention since March on charges of violating COVID-19 restrictions.
Authorities continued to clamp down on opposition and civil society and parliament voted on controversial constitutional amendments consolidating President Mnangagwa’s hold on power. Magistrate Court in capital Harare 6 April sentenced Makomborero Haruzivishe, member of Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, to 14 months in prison for allegedly “inciting violence” and “resisting arrest” during anti-govt protest in Feb 2020; police same day reportedly disrupted MDC-A press conference and lashed out at people gathered outside court, leaving one journalist injured and five people arrested. Harare Magistrate Court 13 April denied MDC-A MP Joana Mamombe and MDC-A youth leader Cecilia Chimbiri bail for third time since they were detained in early March on charges of violating COVID-19 regulations; trial set for 5 May. Authorities 26 April arrested MDC-A Youth Assembly Chairperson Obey Sithole on allegations of “criminal nuisance” for allegedly participating in demonstration earlier in month. High Court 28 April quashed charges of “communicating false information prejudicial to the state” levelled against investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, saying law used to arrest him in Jan no longer existed. Meanwhile, High Court 14 April nullified March expulsion of six MDC-A MPs from Parliament, ruling that competing MDC faction MP who initiated procedure did not have authority to do so. Mnangagwa throughout month pushed through Parliament raft of constitutional amendments paving way for him to handpick his vice presidents and senior judges including chief justice, deputy chief justice and judge president of the High Court; move comes as position of second VP currently left vacant following resignation of VP Kembo Mohadi last month. Chamisa 21 April denounced “dictatorial amendment to the constitution”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 15 April urged Mnangagwa to implement reforms to advance constitutional rights and freedoms, and to “embrace inclusive national dialogue” to resolve country’s socio-economic and political crises.
Govt continued to harass opposition and civil society, and infighting between main opposition party factions reached new heights. In capital Harare, authorities 5 March arrested three female members of Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for third time in less than a year on charges of breaching COVID-19 regulations; one granted bail 10 March. In second largest city Bulawayo, security forces 10 March arrested nine members of opposition Mthwakazi Republic Party who were protesting police raid on home of party leader Mqondiso Moyo previous night. In Raffingora town, authorities 27 March arrested three MDC-A members for allegedly violating COVID-19 regulations; court 29 March granted them bail. After Chamisa 12 March accused President Mnangagwa of “rising authoritarianism”, ruling party ZANU-PF next day said Chamisa was making “veiled attempts to unseat a constitutionally elected government”. ZANU-PF 24 March removed its political commissar Victor Matemadanda over alleged mishandling of district coordinating committee elections in Dec 2020 and “reckless” remarks after Matemadanda said ZANU-PF was responsible for crippling MDC-A. Meanwhile, infighting between two competing factions of opposition MDC party intensified. Parliament 17 March expelled six MDC-A MPs, including MDC-A VP Tendai Biti, after competing faction of MDC claimed they no longer belonged to party; move came after High Court 11 March ruled that joining MDC-A translated to “self-expulsion” from party. U.S. 23 March said it is following events “closely” and accused ZANU-PF of “misusing the levers of government to silence critics and entrench its political power”. U.S. 3 March renewed sanctions against Mnangagwa and other top officials for one year, citing security services’ violent repression of citizens throughout 2020 and lack of reforms needed “to ensure the rule of law, democratic governance and the protection of human rights”. VP Kembo Mohadi 1 March resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Authorities continued to repress opposition and civil society. In capital Harare, authorities 1 Feb arrested MP Joana Mamombe, a member of Nelson Chamisa-led faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-A), and two female MDC-A youth leaders, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, during anti-govt protest; Mamombe and Chimbiri later charged with “obstructing or hindering police officer performing duty during [COVID-19] lockdown”, while Marova was released without charge; High Court 9 Feb granted Mamombe and Chimbiri bail.High Court 1 Feb granted bail to Job Sikhala, MDC-A vice chairman who was arrested in Jan on charges of “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state”; 19 Feb granted bail to student activist Allan Moyo, who was arrested in Dec 2020 for allegedly inciting violence. Authorities 20 Feb arrested 12 MDC-A members at gunpoint for allegedly breaching COVID-19 regulations in Chinhoyi city, Mashonaland West province; all 12 released on bail 22 Feb.Meanwhile, MDC-A 6 Feb called on armed forces to “rein in some of its rogue elements” amid allegations that soldiers killed civilian and assaulted many others for allegedly violating COVID-19 regulations in Midlands province in recent weeks. UN Human Rights Office 12 Feb expressed “concern” after NGO Human Right Watch previous day accused govt of using COVID-19 to crack down on journalists and opposition. UK 1 Feb imposed sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze, on four security chiefs over allegations of human rights violations, notably crackdown on anti-govt protesters and opposition, since 2017. EU 19 Feb renewed arms embargo against Zimbabwe and asset freeze against state-owned company Zimbabwe Defence Industries for one year, citing “need to investigate the role of security force actors in human rights abuses”.