Courageous Pillay infuriates Zanu (PF)

Following her recent official visit to Zimbabwe, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Madam Pillay, gave an excellent press conference in Harare effectively demonstrating her competent grasp of the facts regarding this nation’s deplorable track record.

Ms Navanethem Pillay
Ms Navanethem Pillay

Initially pampered and high-jacked by Patrick Chinamasa on her arrival, Pillay, nonetheless, was able to meet and listen to the real civil society that the Minister of Justice had sought to marginalize. It was that meeting and her meeting with the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, that enabled her to get to the bottom of the true picture of the nation’s human rights situation. Her courage was displayed when she briefly but accurately focused on each and every aspect of Zimbabwe’s human rights record. The highlights of her speech are worth noting.

Pillay rightly noted that there is still extreme polarization in Zimbabwe in spite of the inclusive government. We note that most of this polarization is perpetrated and promoted by the state-controlled media with the blessing of the Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu.

Pillay also dismissed Mugabe and Zanu (PF)’s illusion that elections could be held this year when she said, “…the next election, which is due some time in the coming year could turn into arepeat of the 2008 elections which resulted in rampant politically-motivated human rights abuses, including killings, torture, rapes, beatings, arbitrary detention, displacements and other violations.” This did not go down well with Chinamasa, who later evicted Pillay and other UN staff so that he could refute her statement and claim that there was no evidence of any of these human rights violations. He must have been singing for his dinner.

Further embarrassment for Zanu (PF) came when Pillay noted: “In stark contrast, human rights defenders, journalists and political activists have been arrested and charged on a regular basis. Even Councillors and Members of Parliament from the MDC-T have been arrested and charged under Section 33 of the Criminal Code (a provision dealing with “insulting or undermining the authority of the president”).

I believe this legislation should be repealed. Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is also seriously misused by prosecutors who employ it to block release after bail has been granted, and are notrequired to provide any reason for their action. I believe this legislation should be amended to protect against its frequent misuse for political purposes, especially during the run-up to elections.” Ouch! The High Commissioner had done her homework in detail, and Chinamasa and his party did not like this at all.

To make matters worse for the former liberation party, Pillay did not spare the securocrats, whose anti-democracy utterances she rightly deplored, “I have heard much concern expressed about the role of the military, including a recent statement by one of the country’s most senior army officers suggesting the army should throw its weight behind one political party – when for any country to be called a democracy, its army must observe strict political neutrality. As the GPA clearly says, ‘State organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties.”

The same could have been said about the Central Intelligence Organisation, the Prison Service and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. It would be naive to think that Pillay’s recent visit will make Zanu (PF) behave any better than it has done in the past. The task of liberating this country from dictatorship still remains in our court. We are our own liberators – through any means possible except violence. [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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