n African Human Rights Law Journal - Human rights litigation in Zimbabwe : past, present and future

Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



This article examines the progress and difficulties experienced in litigating human rights in Zimbabwe, from independence in 1980 to the present day. The article begins by discussing the constitutional basis for human rights litigation and explains the various avenues to pursue issues relating to the Declaration of Rights in the Supreme Court. The article identifies certain time frames that influenced the development of human rights litigation in Zimbabwe and briefly outlines various cases that set precedents for future litigation. During the first five years after Zimbabwe had gained independence, the ability of the Supreme Court to hear litigation on human rights issues was severely limited due to a constitutional provision that determined that existing laws could not be challenged under the Declaration of Rights. Thereafter followed what has been described as the 'golden era of human rights litigation', from 1985-2001. Decisions were taken in almost every field of human rights specified in the Declaration of Rights and the vast majority of these decisions favoured the citizen. Post-2001 human rights litigation, however, has by March 2003 yielded only two Supreme Court decisions where the citizens' rights prevailed. The problems currently experienced by the judiciary in Zimbabwe are identified and it is argued that the future of the judiciary is intertwined with the future of the government of Zimbabwe.

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