Voters in Zimbabwe turned out in record numbers to approve a new constitution for the southern African nation. An analysis by the Election Resource Center there found that more than three million people made their voices heard in the March 16 referendum, approving the draft by an overwhelming margin. An apparent desire by citizens for government reform is credited for the significant vote in support of approving the new constitution.
The peaceful and credible vote marks an historic step forward in Zimbabwe’s development of democracy and rule of law, part of an important process started in 1980 to establish freedom for all of the nation’s citizens. The United States congratulates both the people and the government of Zimbabwe for the conduct of the vote and we hope that it serves as a precedent for upcoming presidential elections later this year.
We are concerned about recent arrests and harassment of civil society representatives, especially those focused on human and political rights.
At the same time, we are concerned about recent arrests and harassment of civil society representatives, especially those focused on human and political rights. Over the past six months, police have executed search warrants, conducted office raids, and arrested employees on spurious charges from a number of prominent civil society organizations. Police have further disrupted numerous efforts by community organizations to register Zimbabweans to vote.
Additionally, prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested and charged with obstructing justice when she intervened legally on behalf of her clients, employees from civil society organizations. She has since been released on bail, but continues to face charges. The arrests and office raids suggest a clear pattern of politically-motivated harassment by state entities against organizations focused on ensuring that citizens’ rights are protected.
The United States believes that all political parties, civil society groups and individuals should be able to operate freely and express their views peacefully and within the law. In any country, this is crucial for credible, fair elections.