Geneva, 1st October 2004
By September 1999, the Movement for Democratic Change had emerged with the leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai, as its President. In the elections of 2000, which were characterised by high levels of violence, the MDC won 57 of the 120 elected seats. In October 2000, President Mugabe issued a decree granting a general amnesty for politically motivated crimes that had occurred between 1 January and 31 July 2000.
Politically motivated violence continued throughout 2001 and intensified after January 2002 in the run-up to the presidential elections of March 2002 in which Robert Mugabe was declared the winner. The Commonwealth Election Observer Mission concluded that “conditions in Zimbabwe did not adequately allow for a free expression of the will of electors”.3 Observer missions from other countries and organisations, including the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC) concurred with this assessment. Zimbabwe was suspended from membership in the Commonwealth for one year. In December 2003, the Commonwealth decided to maintain the suspension until Zimbabwe complied with the principles of the Harare Declaration and resolved at the same time to encourage and assist the process of national reconciliation. As a result of its continuing suspension, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth. The European Union, for its part, had imposed sanctions on the country in February 2002, after one of the EU electoral observers had been expelled from the country, and the United States was soon to follow suit.
In 2003, scores of MDC members were arrested in connection with the National Stay-Away of March and June 2003, organised by the MDC. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 2005 and it is widely feared that the country may plunge into further violence.
3 MDC candidates have challenged both the 2000 parliamentary and the 2002 presidential elections results; no judgments had reportedly been made. In his discussion with the delegation, the Chief Justice stated that a committee of four judges had been appointed and had started liasing with the lawyers, without making much progress. When he was appointed Chief Justice, he removed the judges and summoned the lawyers, telling them that a date would be set “whenever they were ready”. As a result, the process had accelerated. A first case had been resolved two months previously and four or five cases were ready to be heard. He explained that the court system was not well suited to settling some of the issues that had come up, such as unorthodox means of getting people to vote. It would be necessary for the court to travel around the country to check the facts for itself as all witnesses were biased. A new system was therefore needed to resolve this type of problem.