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UN Rights Envoy Says Zimbabwe Political, Economic Situation Deteriorating


FILE: Zimbabwe riot police sit outside the hospital in Harare, Sept. 25, 2019, where the head of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association Dr. Peter Magombeyi is currently receiving medical care

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s political and economic environment is deteriorating, causing anxiety as hopes fade for a long-awaited improvement in people’s living conditions, a United Nations human rights envoy said on Friday.

Many Zimbabweans are frustrated that the departure in November 2017 of longtime ruler Robert Mugabe, who died on Sept. 6 in Singapore, did not lead to a quick economic recovery and end to heavy-handed tactics by authorities.

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday Harare needed to intensify reform efforts.

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, a U.N. envoy on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, told reporters after a 10-day fact-finding visit that Zimbabweans were questioning the capacity of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to bring about change.

“Albeit the common belief that a transformation will come, I believe that the long-awaited hopes are fading,” Nyaletsossi said.

“I have perceived from my different meetings around the country that there is a serious deterioration of the political, economic and social environment since August 2018, resulting in fear, frustration and anxiety among a large number of Zimbabweans.”

Nick Mangwana, the information ministry’s permanent secretary and principal spokesman, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Mnangagwa’s disputed election win last year was met by a security crackdown that killed six people, while more than a dozen people died in January when security forces moved in to quell fuel protests that had turned violent.

The government arrested scores of civil society and opposition officials after the January protests and charged them with subversion, which carries a 20-year jail term.

Nyaletsossi said Harare authorities should withdraw the charges against civil society leaders to build trust between government and non-governmental organisations as well as stop surveillance of the groups by state security agents.

Nyaletsossi, who will present his report at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting next year in June, also urged Mnangagwa’s government to amend security laws to allow peaceful protests and remove a blanket ban on demonstrations.

Last month, the police and courts banned the main opposition party from holding countrywide protests over Mnangagwa’s handling of the economy, saying the demonstrations posed a security threat. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe)

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