Thirty-two heads of African states came together on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union. Since then, Africa Day has been commemorated annually as an opportunity to celebrate the realised potential of Africa as a continent and take stock of the missed opportunities. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) today joins the rest of Africa and the world in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the signature of the founding charter of the OAU.
This year’s Africa Day commemorations are being observed under the global theme: “Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (the AfCFTA).” It is a theme that is in line with the vision of the founding fathers of the OAU – that of deepening the economic integration of the African continent. The AfCTA is a potentially progressive trade pact aimed at breaking down borders to ease trade amongst African nations by creating a single market of goods and services for the people of Africa. This is in line with the dream of establishing an Africa for Africans in trade. This theme also presents an opportunity for Africa to reflect on how the enjoyment of human rights and business can be integrated seamlessly as part of transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of now and the future.
The theme for this year’s Africa Day commemorations remains relevant given the lived reality of millions of ordinary Zimbabweans today. Job creation, poverty alleviation, access to improved service delivery, improved welfare and sustainable development are part of the real income gains of the AfCTA. This vision is yet to transform into tangible gains for ordinary Zimbabweans in the face of an exclusive economy characterised by hyperinflation that magnifies the vulnerabilities of vulnerable groups in society. Corruption, consistent failure to implement recommendations of the Auditor General’s Report, mismanagement of taxpayers’ money, lack of prioritization of the plight of citizens, primitive accumulation of wealth and political interference emerge as the major drivers of poverty, erosion of the social contract and poor service delivery in Zimbabwe. This serves to reduce the country’s ability to build critical infrastructure and support the needs of the population or respond to urgent societal challenges.
The crisis in Zimbabwe, especially with dilapidated infrastructure, is one that has devastating consequences for the Southern Africa region. Zimbabwe is the pathway into Southern Africa and the region situated in the north for goods and services from South Africa. The slow infrastructural development in Zimbabwe continues to make Zimbabwe an unpractical passage for trade. Zimbabwe needs to catch up with other nations so that, the region can benefit from its strategic geographical positioning in Southern Africa.
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is manifesting negatively in the health, education and governance sectors. The public health sector remains the most affected by a wide range of challenges, including a shortage of basic drugs, dilapidated infrastructure and equipment, inadequate funding and severe healthcare brain drain caused by critically underpaid staff. The education sector has also not been spared. In 2022, Zimbabwe spent 13% of the national budget towards education, falling short once again of the 20% stipulation which was agreed at the Dakar Conference in Senegal. Persistent challenges in funding the education sector have resulted in a disgruntled workforce, dilapidated and under-resourced facilities particularly in remote rural areas, corruption in schools and a general decline in the quality of education across the country.
On the governance front, Zimbabwe continues to grapple with selective application of the law, shrinking democratic and civic space, political violence, and prolonged pre-trial incarceration of political opponents, particularly in the case of Job Sikhala, who has been detained for over 300 days.
The government has done very little to improve the population’s quality and standard of living. This is despite Zimbabwe being a member state of the AU, having been admitted as a member state of the OAU on 1 June 1980 following the attainment of the country’s independence in that same year.
It is against this concerning background that the Forum strongly urges the Zimbabwean government to fulfil the vision of the founding charter of the AU and to demonstrate genuine political will and commitment to attain full economic integration in the country by:
- Fast-tracking integration of Zimbabwe into the world of commons, through raising confidence and building trust in the socio-economic, infrastructural and governance policies,
- Undertaking equitable resource-allocation that prioritizes adequate financing of critical sectors in particular the health and education sectors whilst providing social safety cushions for vulnerable groups in society; and
- Setting up concrete and effective mechanisms to prevent and root out corruption and cognate practices.,
- Putting in place viable social security measures and ensuring a human rights-based approach to its socio-economic policies