Zimbabwe least free in SADC; worse than coup-ridden Niger, Gabon in latest ratings  

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By Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE’s steady decline on The Human Freedom Index (HFI) has seen it slide to being worse than coup-ridden Niger and Gabon while taking the trophy for being the worst in Southern Africa.

The 2023 results, shared recently, reveal that Zimbabwe is still part of the world’s least free countries category, a position which it shares with ‘all-weather friends’ Belarus and China.

With a score of 4.86 out of 10, Zimbabwe is just 1.9 points from bottom-placed Syria.

The HFI measures an absence of coercive constraints using 86 indicators that include the rule of law, security, freedom of expression, association, information, economy, and operations of a country’s judiciary.

“Human freedom deteriorated severely in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Most areas of freedom fell, including significant declines in the rule of law; freedom of movement, expression, and association and assembly; and freedom to trade,” reads the report.

“The data shows that there is an unequal distribution of freedom in the world, with only 13.8 percent of the world’s population living in the top quartile of jurisdictions in the HFI and 37.6 percent living in the bottom quartile.

“Out of 10 regions, those with the highest levels of freedom are North America (Canada and the United States), Western Europe, and Oceania.

“The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.”

Although Zimbabwe’s worst rating was between 2004 and 2008, the country has been steeply declining since 2016, a year before the November coup that got President Emmerson Mnangagwa into office.

It has consistently been below the regional average.

Zimbabwe’s already poor human rights record has not been helped by incidences of alleged state-sponsored abductions of opposition political figures, shutting of democratic spaces, and questionable handling of elections.

Several opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Councillors and legislators have either been arrested, abducted, or jailed since August’s general elections.

A two-decade-long economic crisis that has devalued wages and impoverished millions also contributed to the poor rating.

 Adds the report: “The HFI also finds a strong relationship between human freedom and democracy. The findings in the HFI suggest that freedom plays an important role in human well-being, and they offer opportunities for further research into the complex ways in which freedom influences and can be influenced by political regimes, economic development, and the whole range of indicators of human well-being.”