Copac draft: emphasis on respect for human rights

Chapter Four of the Copac draft constitution deals with the Declaration of Rights. It would appear that great efforts were made to include every conceivable human right in this chapter. In section one, the State and every person, including juristic persons, and every institution and agency of the government at every level are required to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and freedoms set out in this fourth chapter of the proposed foundation law.

Bitter past experience has informed section 4.7 of the draft, which provides for the rights of arrested and detained persons. These persons must be informed at the time of arrest of the reason for the arrest; at the expense of the State, they must be allowed to contact their spouse or partner, or their next of kin or a close relative or legal practitioner, or anyone else of their choice. Some of our law enforcement agents will experience a cultural shock as a result of these provisions.

The draft also requires that arrested or detained persons be treated humanely and with respect; be released on bond or bail, on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons justifying their continued detention; be permitted to challenge the lawfulness of the arrest in person before a court and released promptly if the arrest is unlawful.

“No person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” It is no wonder that some of our securocrats are not particularly happy about the Copac draft; they have grown used to inflicting all kinds of torture, pain and suffering on innocent Zimbabweans in the name of the former ruling party. The Copac draft will put an end to all such behaviour if adopted.

With regards to equality and non-discrimination, section 4.13 aptly states:

(1) Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

(2) Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

(3) Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, disability or economic or social status, or whether born in or out of wedlock.

There was certainly an attempt to cover all the areas of the usual forms of discrimination, and Copac should be congratulated for this.

Personal privacy is protected as follows:

Every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have—

(a) their home, premises or property entered without their permission;

(b) their person, home, premises or property searched;

(c) their possessions seized;

(d) the privacy of their communications infringed; or

(e) their health condition disclosed.

Hopefully, this will put to an end some of those nasty police searches that have become common-place. Some political parties have lost property due to illegal police seizures. This will also put an end to unwarranted phone tapings and the hacking of our e-mails by state agents. The freedoms enshrined in this fourth chapter include those of association, assembly, demonstration and petition, expression, media and academic freedom. There is also the right to information held by the government or by any other person, “…in so far as the information is required for the exercise or protection of a right.”

In relation to the freedom of movement and residence, section 4.23 states:

(1) Every Zimbabwean citizen has—

(a) the right to enter Zimbabwe;

(b) immunity from expulsion from Zimbabwe; and,

(c) the right to a passport or other travel document.

This will now make it difficult for the state to refuse some Zimbabweans entry into the country on the basis that they stayed for a long time in a foreign country. It is also good to know that Zimbabweans will have immunity from expulsion from their mother country for any reason whatsoever.

Political rights are provided for as follows: Every citizen of Zimbabwe has the right—

(a) to free, fair and regular elections for any elective public office established in terms of this Constitution or any other law; and

(b) to make political choices freely.

(2) Subject to this Constitution, every citizen of Zimbabwe has the right—

(a) to form, to join and to participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice;

(b) to campaign freely and peacefully for a political party or cause;

(c) to participate in peaceful political activity; and

(d) to participate, individually or collectively, in gatherings or groups or in whatever manner, in peaceful activities to influence, challenge or support the policies of the Government or any political or whatever cause.

At the end of the day, the Copac document is not at all a bad law. It, in fact, is so good that some elements that work for the only party that is hostile to democracy are now working overtime trying to shoot the draft to pieces. They must not be allowed to succeed.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *