Statement in commemoration of the international day of tolerance

In 1996, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, by resolution 51/95, invited the UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November.

This action followed up on the United Nations’ 1993 proclamation that 1995 would be the Year for Tolerance. Since then, this day has been commemorated to help spread tolerance and raise awareness of any intolerance that may still be prevalent in the world. The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Tolerance. The primary theme for the International Day of Tolerance states that tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression, and ways of being human.

On this occasion of the International Day of Tolerance commemorations, the NTJWG notes with concern the recent increase in interparty and intraparty political violence fuelled by intolerance in the country. For instance, on 11 October 2021, the National Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi reported the arrest of twenty Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) supporters in Manicaland province following intraparty violence that occurred on 10 October 2021. The clashes started at the party’s provincial co-ordinating committee meeting in Mutare, after demonstrators, who were calling for the ouster of Chairperson Mike Madiro, were teargassed by police. On the same day, in Charumbira village in Masvingo, ZANU-PF members waving placards attacked MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s entourage damaging vehicles and injuring scores of people who have since been hospitalised. Such incidents are particularly concerning as they suggest high levels of intolerance of divergent political views, a highly undesirable situation, particularly given the fast-approaching 2023 elections.

Intolerance in Zimbabwea is not only limited to politics. There is also widespread intolerance of sexual minorities, represented through hate speech, blackmail, extortion, violence, verbal abuse, disownment by families, isolation, stigma and discrimination in social, political and economic spheres. In the recent past, banners calling for equality of treatment by the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were vandalised with graffiti. Similarly, divergent views are also treated with the same hate and intolerance as illustrated by the destruction of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) #HowFar Billboard that requested an update from Hwange Colliery Company on the Zambezi Water Project. It is these illustrations of intolerance that have sown disharmony and discrimination in society.

Tolerance is not only a moral duty but also a political and legal requirement for individuals, groups, and political parties. Through exercising tolerance, people recognise the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and acknowledge that peace is more than the absence of war but extends to coexistence despite differences in gender, political views, language, religion, or culture. As the world commemorates the International Day of Tolerance, the NTJWG urges the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to exercise its constitutional mandate to receive and consider complaints from the public especially issues to do with the use of hate speech that promotes intolerance and may cause potential conflicts and dispute. To promote national healing and peace, the NPRC must address the issue of intolerance instigated by public figures and raise awareness about the harmful effects of intolerance and discrimination in society which leads to violence and destroys peace.

It is the position of the NTJWG that tolerance for divergent views is a good measure for democracy, constitutionalism and peace within a society. The NTJWG, therefore, calls upon the Government to rebuild public trust through human rights protection and promotion by:

  • Ensuring strict enforcement of laws against hate crimes, hate speech, and discrimination.
  • Educating the nation on the importance of tolerance and the negative effects of intolerance, especially towards the election period Zimbabwe is approaching.
  • Promoting diversity by promoting press freedom and press pluralism to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.

The NTJWG urges the nation to stand up for and celebrate diversity, where everyone is treated with decency and respect regardless of gender, language, ethnicity, political, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Tolerance is necessary for all spheres of life, and on every level, because it plays a vital role in establishing peace, healing, and unity in society and prevents the re-occurrence of conflict and violence.

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