Citizens demand their constitutional rights

This past week-end saw members of civil society organisations stand together and demand that government provide them with venues and centres where issues affecting communities can be brought out into the open and discussed with a view to solving them.

Zimbabwe-World-Map-FlagThis reporter’s investigations found that the government continues to prohibit citizens from speaking freely despite the fact that the right to do so is clearly provided for in the country’s constitution.

At the recent commemoration of the Global Day of Citizen Action, celebrated annually on the 14th of May, two organisations issued a joint statement demanding their constitutional rights.

Election Resources Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) issued a joint statement stating that there is a deliberate attempt by the state to close democratic centres and assemblies within communities.

ERC director, Tawanda Chimhiniwho who has been campaigning for human rights and democracy for the past decade bewailed the increase in state harassment and intimidation of citizens.

“The continued harassment and intimidation of citizens involved in democratic processes and the escalating call for Memorandum of Understandings between civil society and District Administrators across the country is a clear attempt to clamp down on civic space,” said Chimhini.

Chimhini added that true civic assembly space exists only when individuals and organisations are given the freedom to speak out, organise and take action. He further stated that civic space is under threat in many other parts of the world as well.

Renowned Human Rights defender and ZimRights director, Okay Machisa is of the opinion that the annual 14th of May ‘Day of Citizen Action’ presents the ideal opportunity to create awareness and remind communities of their rights and encourage them to take action.

“It is also an ideal opportunity to raise awareness and remind communities to take action and speak out against a repressive government in line with Chapter four, Sections 58, 59 and 61 of the Constitution that recognises freedom of assembly, association, speech and the freedom to demonstrate and petition, among other freedoms,” said Machisa.

“By participating in this global event, ERC and ZimRights reaffirming the importance of human rights and local awareness creation of the continued importance of the right to speak out, organise and take action and the challenges faced,” added Machisa.

The two organisations advised that they took the opportunity to provide rural communities with opportunities to freely express themselves on national radio and to speak out against all forms of oppression and suppression.

In 2014, the first Global Day of Citizen Action (GDCA) drew 20 000 participants at 48 events and involving 26 countries. This reporter is pleased to report that participation in 2015 increased to 30 000 individuals involved in 116 events across 56 countries.

Currently the two partners are implementing projects that seek to engage citizens on issues of democracy, transparency, accountability and participation across the country.


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