On Independence Day, Forum asks Government to Respect Human Rights as we head for Elections

Today, 18 April 2023, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of the nation in commemorating 43 years of independence from colonial rule.

Annually, this day ought to provide Zimbabwe with an opportunity to take stock of the gains and losses regarding the promise of the liberation struggle. The sacrificial contributions of the freedom fighters on the frontlines and their support systems during the liberation struggle can never be downplayed. On this day, the Forum salutes the heroes and heroines of the struggle and their selfless sacrifices to secure the freedoms of the future generations of Zimbabwe.

Article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights espouses that every citizen should be a beneficiary of the deliberate efforts of a government in facilitating a conducive environment for individual and collective development. The Zimbabwe Constitution (2013) in section 11 in turn confers an obligation on the government to take practical measures to protect fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The Forum is concerned that as the nation gears towards the 2023 harmonized elections, the prevailing situation shows that the government has reneged on the promise of the liberation struggle.  This year’s commemorations come at a time when, 43 years later, the government is facing widespread discontentment because of its failure to provide comprehensive solutions to some of the political, socio-economic, democratic and governance challenges. These include endemic corruption that rewards instead of bringing to book perpetrators; an exclusive economy that has pushed the majority into poverty; regression in the state of democracy and human rights characterized by threats of closure of what is left of the civic space; increased vulnerability of the vulnerable groups in society and; deepening polarization resulting in hate speech, spurts of political violence and political intolerance.

The Forum is disturbed that the human rights situation in the country has continued to deteriorate since independence. This is worsened by the weaponisation of the legal reform processes and the judiciary against perceived enemies of the State. In fact, the methods used by the Smith regime on the black majority population to stifle their rights such as the use of force and torture to stop black nationalism remain in use against the population by the incumbent Government.

The Forum is worried that cases of organized violence and torture are increasing. This is reflected between January and December 2022, when the Forum recorded 1996 cases of human rights violations mainly perpetrated by the State. The figures paint a gloomy picture of the human rights situation in the country. Such human rights violations are characterized by arbitrary arrests, physical assault, political violence, torture and persecution of opposition political actors and human rights defenders. The Forum is perturbed by the direction in which legislative reform has taken. The laws are shrinking both the physical and digital civic space.  Repressive pieces of legislation are being promulgated and proposed and these threaten democracy, good, transparent and accountable governance as well as rule of law. Examples of these include and are not limited to the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPA), and the Cyber and Data Protection Act that has been adopted while the Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Amendment Bill awaits presidential assent. The Patriotic Act is being proposed through the Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill and this will criminalise “willing fully damaging the sovereignty and national interests of Zimbabwe”.

Zimbabwe is also struggling to reconcile its vast endowments in terms of natural resources including but not limited to minerals and arable land whilst such endowments are not translating positively into ordinary citizens’ day-to-day lives.  A documentary by Qatar-based television news channel, Al Jazeera, Gold Mafia has exposed elaborate corruption, money laundering and gold smuggling schemes in Zimbabwe by some high-profile people, whilst the masses find themselves in crippling poverty.

The Forum is concerned that the nation may have set itself free from the shackles of colonial minority rule in 1980 but the realization of freedom today is riddled with a myriad of governance and human rights challenges. The freedom of Zimbabwean citizens hinges on respect and adherence to the founding values of the liberation struggle which are pronounced in the principles and Constitution.

The Forum urges the Government to consider the following:

  • Comprehensively addressing corruption, economic exclusion and poverty of citizens
  • Facilitating the creation of a conducive environment for citizens to enjoy and actively demand their rights, especially civil and political rights as enshrined in the Constitution (2013) as we head towards elections
  • Fostering and supporting political tolerance amongst citizens at the different levels of society
  • Initiate transparent processes of investigating cases of corruption and money laundering to the extent of the cases reaching finality with perpetrators being brought to book
  • Making the Zimbabwean citizen the centre of all priorities as was the case during the liberation struggle

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