Date: April 18, 2023 Type: Country:

Zimbabwe: 43 years independence commemoration marred by rapidly shrinking civic space and decline in freedoms

Zimbabweans are marking forty-three years of independence from colonial rule amid the reality of a rapidly shrinking civic space, including criminalizing of dissent against political activists and human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today. 

“Forty-three years after independence, authorities are still yet to guarantee in practice the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly which are increasingly being threatened despite being guaranteed under the constitution and international law,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa. 

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly has continuously been violated and undermined with the authorities refusing to give clearance for some of the main opposition party’s rallies, arresting and convicting peaceful protesters and using unnecessary and excessive force to stop protests.

“As Zimbabwe approaches elections later this year, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly have come under increasing attack. Dissenting voices are being criminalized, with some opposition activists put in lengthy pre-trial detentions.” said Flavia Mwangovya.   

“Authorities must stop criminalizing dissent and ensure the levelling of playing field as the country fast approaches the elections. The opposition must be free to carry out their campaigns and individuals and groups must be protected from politically motivated violence.

“Authorities must promote, protect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as guarantee the socio-economic rights of every Zimbabwean.”


Zimbabwe gained independence from the British colonial rule on 18 April 1980. Today marks forty-three years of independence. However, as Amnesty International’s 2022/23 annual report highlights, there has been a worrying trend toward the closing of civic space in Zimbabwe, with the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly being threatened. Members and supporters of the main opposition party have been violently attacked at political rallies. 

Protests have been effectively banned as demonstrated by the arrest and detention of Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole on charges of inciting violence, arrest of 19 students at the University of Zimbabwe in September 2022 after they embarked on peaceful #FeesMustFall demonstrations, conviction of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes and more recently the conviction of Fadzai Mahere.

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Twitter: @amnesty_zim