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Zimbabwe’s Constitution of 2013 guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for citizens, including freedom of speech, association, and religion as well as the right to privacy in their communications (Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013). In practice, however, fundamental rights may sometimes be seen as conflicting with other priorities, such as maintaining public security. 

Governments trying to deal with security threats, for example, may decide to use roadblocks and curfews limiting people’s movements, or to regulate religious speech they consider a danger to public safety. In Zimbabwe, the Interception of Communications Act of 2007 provides for the lawful monitoring of certain communications, and the government has proposed a Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill that critics describe as an attempt to tighten government control and infringe on citizens’ rights (Zimbabwe Independent, 2017).

How do Zimbabweans see potential trade-offs between freedoms and security? Do they believe that some freedoms must be limited in order to enjoy security from violence, or do they think that political liberty is too important to sacrifice even if public security is at risk?

Based on findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe, majorities of Zimbabweans favour protecting private communications, freedom of movement, and freedom of religious speech even in the face of potential security threats. Moreover, substantial proportions of the population think that their freedoms to say what they think about politics and to join any political organization they want, as well as the media’s freedom to investigate or criticize the government, are weakening.