Citation: 2020 RLLR 53
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 18, 2020
Panel: Isis Van Loon
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Jane G. Rukaria
RPD Number: VC0-00752
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000154-000158
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of [XXX], a citizen of Zimbabwe who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In rendering my reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on women refugee claimants fearing gender related persecution.
 Your allegations are set out in your Basis of Claim form and by your testimony, the following is a brief summary.
 You disagree with the current government of Zimbabwe and you’ve supported the movement for democratic change, the opposition party MDC as a volunteer. You fear persecution on this basis. It states that your risk is exacerbated due to the gender-based violence inflicted by state actors on women who are perceived to be opposing the government.
 I find that you are a Convention refugee as you have established a well-founded fear of persecution based on a Convention ground namely political opinion. I also acknowledge that you have a Nexus to membership in a particular social group as a woman facing persecution based on your gender and I’ve considered this in conjunction with your political Nexus in this claim.
 I find your identity as a national of Zimbabwe is established by your testimony and the supporting documentation on file including certified true copies of your passport in Exhibit 1.
 The presumption before me is that your testimony is true. However, this can be rebutted in appropriate circumstances such as inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions or undetailed testimony. You were straightforward and forthcoming in your testimony. There were no relevant inconsistencies between your testimony or other documents before me, other evidence. You did not appear to embellish your description of events and actions, even when it might have appeared favourable to your claim to do so. You provided credible documentation. You explained that you tried, with limited success to obtain documents from Zimbabwe in support of your claim. You said there were problems with COVID as well as not having anybody in Zimbabwe that you could ask to give you assistance with this. However, you were able to provide a number of documents, particularly late disclosures, Exhibit 5 and 6. There is a copy of your membership in the [XXX] dated [XXX] 2020 in Exhibit 5. As well, there’s a letter from [XXX] at the [XXX] Harare that confirms the injuries that you sustained when you visited the clinic on [XXX] of 2019. You have a paystub showing that you worked for a [XXX] from 2012.
 Your husband provided an affidavit with a copy of his photo ID which corroborates the assault that you sustained on [XXX] of 2019 and that he and your sons have largely remained out of Zimbabwe. There’s an affidavit from a colleague in the MDC Women’s Assembly that confirms your participation. This too is accompanied by a copy of the writer’s photo ID. Exhibit 6 includes a letter from the Department of Legal Affairs of the MDC Alliance in Zimbabwe. This letter documents your membership since 2007 and describes your voluntary service in promoting economic activities with the [XXX] and various support services such as typing and distributing materials. The letter includes references to the events that you describe and states that it is a common occurrence for members to be intimidated and assaulted as the brutal crackdown on those opposed to the government is a reality. It’s signed by the [XXX], who provided a phone number and offered to give more information if the Board required. I found these documents relative and probative and that they supported your allegations.
 Based on your testimony and your documentation, I find you are a credible witness and therefore believe what you’ve alleged in support of your claim. I find the persecution that you face has a Nexus to two of the five Convention grounds that of political opinion as well as your membership in a particular social group as a woman facing gender-based violence and therefore, I’ve assessed your claim under Section 96.
 In order to be considered a Convention refugee, you must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution including both a subjective and an objective basis for that fear. Based on your testimony, your supporting documents and the country condition documents. I find that you have a well-founded fear of persecution for the following reasons.
 You’ve supported the MDC as a volunteer for the [XXX]. You described your role and support work and you told me that if you’re a woman in Zimbabwe, you need to do something to be able to help yourself. You said that you used to [XXX], to sustain themselves and feed their families. You testified that the party ZANU-PF does not allow you to share your views. They want you to listen to what they say whether it is right or wrong. You spoke of corruption and misuse of public fonds and the need for those at the top to address this. Also, you said that if you spoke about this openly in Zimbabwe. You would face the threat of harm from the state. You testified that you want to see change and that people should be treated humanely and be able to live safely without fear in Zimbabwe.
 In the runup to the 2018 elections, you worked as a volunteer for a leader Mwayemureyi Saungweme but you were warned by the MDC liaison officer about a pending crackdown. Fearing sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence that women supporters are subjected to, you stopped volunteering. A few days after you stopped, there were several photographs of you volunteering for the MDC with a note saying, we know who you are, dropped off at your house. On [XXX] of 2019, you were caught up in violence when the police attacked a peaceful MDC march. You were merely waiting for a bus at that time and you were beaten by the police. Fearing gender-based violence, you hesitated to see a physician about your injuries and stayed home until [XXX] of 2019. On the [XXX] of January, your house was vandalized. At first you thought it was due to thieves but her neighbours told you that it was the police and you realized that your National ID and other documents had been taken.
 You and your spouse moved to another area in Harare on [XXX] 2019, and after that you only went out to go to and from work and you avoided any active participation in MDC activities due to your fear of persecution. You kept a low profile. On [XXX] 2019, there was more violence during an MDC demonstration. You were working at a [XXX] and injured protesters came for treatment followed by police who ordered the staff not to treat them. When the [XXX] refused to follow these orders, the police dragged the front-line staff including yourself outside and assaulted you. You had already realized after the [XXX] assault that you had to leave the country for your safety but first you needed to ensure your sons were safe and to get the fonds for you to be able to leave yourself.
 You stated that one of your sons was already out of the country studying at that time and that you ensured that he was not going to come back and you arranged for your other son to leave Zimbabwe on [XXX] of 2019. Your mother, who was visiting relatives in Canada became very ill and this enabled you to get a visa to come to Canada. However, you still didn’t have the funds to leave at that time. On [XXX] of 2019, the police attacked the MDC office in Harare. This raised your level of concern even higher and your brother bought you a ticket so that you could leave for Canada on [XXX] 2019. You claimed asylum in Canada and signed your Basis of Claim form on the 21st of January 2020. In the meantime, your spouse has also left Zimbabwe and [XXX] in the [XXX] through to [XXX] only passing through Zimbabwe as necessary. Since coming to Canada. You’ve joined the MDC North America. You said we are organizing and trying to see how we can contribute to help our youth in Zimbabwe to start some projects, so they can help themselves.
 I found that you have adduced sufficient credible evidence by your actions; also which is supported by the country documents to establish that you do have a subjective fear of persecution in Zimbabwe. The country condition documents show that the ruling government of Zimbabwe the ZANU-PF has come down hard on the opposition such as the MDC. NDP 2.2 Freedom in the World says despite President Mnangagwa repeatedly voicing his commitments to human rights reforms Zimbabwe remained highly intolerant of basic rights, peaceful dissent and free expression in 2019. During nationwide protests in mid-January, security forces responded with lethal force, killing at least 17 people, raping at least 17 women, shooting and injuring 81 people and arresting over 1000 suspected protesters during door-to-door raids. In the months that followed several civil society activists, political opposition leaders and other critics of the government were arbitrarily arrested, abducted, beaten or tortured. Little or no efforts were made to bring those responsible for the abuses to justice. Following the protests security forces intensified a crackdown on supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, among others. The U.S. Department of State echoed this description of the poor performance of the Zimbabwe government with respect to human rights and notes that impunity remains a problem. Amnesty International also described the treatment of opposition members and supporters particularly during that January 2019 protest, where security agents opened fire on protesters.
 The police also threatened and arrested journalists, medical doctors and lawyers, monitoring the protests or assisting protesters. They used tear gas, baton sticks, water cannons and live ammunition to disperse protesters. The crackdown on protesters included torture and other ill-treatment and mass arrests. By the end of February, over 600 people have been arrested in connection with the January protest that’s NDP 2.4. The UK Home Office further notes direct targeting of opposition and perceived opposition, including NGOs that continued after the initial violence through house raids, arrests and detentions. The NDP provides evidence women are targeted, specifically in election times, as candidates and election workers. Women have also stated that they feared not only the direct act of violence but potential repercussions associated with it. For example, they’re concerned that being politically active may result in getting caught in a mob or arrested and brought to jail where they could be raped. Impunity plays a large role in allowing this climate of fear to persist. Interviewees frequently referred to the role of the police in failing to protect or of even actively contributed to the violence against women in election times.
 A review of online content showed that 60 percent of violent discourse and content in the political space was directed at women for the period between January 2013 to April 2018 according to NDP 5.7. You also provided country documentation detailing the heightened risk faced by women who are in opposition to the government. A February 2020 survey found that an astounding 75 percent of women surveyed by Transparency International Zimbabwe have been forced to exchange sex for jobs, medical care and even seeking placement in school for their children, that’s Exhibit 4 on page 22 and it notes that even police officers are involved in this form of extortion. An academic article from the Journal of International Women’s Studies on page 27 includes that gender-based and politically motivated violence has an ongoing negative impact on women and girls and has led to a broad acceptance of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe. An August 30, 2019, article by Newsday reports on the MDC Women’s Assembly’s concerns over the growing abductions and abuse of women being perpetrated by suspects, state security agencies and members of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Another article from The Guardian of January 31, 2019, states that scores of women and girls say they have been raped over the past two weeks by army officials who have ransacked houses ostensibly in search of protesters and another article on pages 69 to 70 states that most rapes by soldiers and security forces go unreported to the security forces due to fears of reprisals.
 I’m satisfied that opponents of the government such as you, yourself face a serious possibility of persecution. Furthermore, your risk is compounded by the threat of sexual assault, which women, particularly women who are in political opposition face in Zimbabwe. Based on all the evidence before me, I find you would face a serious possibility of persecution if you were to return to Zimbabwe.
State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative
 In this case the agent of persecution is the state and its supporters. The persecution that you would face if returned to Zimbabwe is at the hands of the authorities. Accordingly, I find there is no state protection available to you and the presumption of state protection is rebutted. The state is in control of all of its territories and therefore on the evidence before me, I find there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Zimbabwe and that there is thus no viable internal flight alternative available for you in your particular circumstances. Based on the totality of the evidence, I’ve concluded that you are a Convention refugee and accordingly, I’m accepting your claim.
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