Zim govt slammed for interfering with independent institutions

HARARE - Human rights groups have expressed concern over continued government threats and interference in the country’s autonomous institutions, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution.

This comes as the State media has escalated calls for President Robert Mugabe’s government to muzzle the judiciary and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), as angry citizens crank up pressure on the nonagenarian to go.

After Sunday’s attacks on the judiciary, which has been granting court orders to protesters, yesterday the State media hammered the ZHRC for condemning police brutality.

“It is very unfortunate that we have a Constitution that provides for independent commissions, which now the government wants to instil fear in,” Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said yesterday.

“If they cannot respect these institutions, it means that they will not respect the people, we have a crisis. If they are failing to respect the independence of institutions, what about the citizens, it means they can do anything,” he said.

“We applaud the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission for the statement,” Machisa said.

The ZHRC has been consistent in condemning State-sponsored violence, including police brutality.

ZHRC — a statutory body — was set up during the inclusive government to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations.

Machisa said any State that felt their wrongs were being exposed would want to attack institutions that uphold the Constitution.

“A State or State media that would attack institutions meant to uphold human rights is an indication of a State that has resorted to manipulation or control of structures of the judiciary and commissions and when we have that, then we cease to have a government to talk about,” he said.

“Government should realise these institutions are trying to make our country upright.”

The Commission and judiciary have recently come under attack for upholding human rights and speaking out against rights abuses by authorities, as mandated by the Constitution.

But this has seemingly angered government officials and aligned establishments, as they castigated the institutions for fulfilling their mandates.

The courts were attacked after granting orders for opposition parties, churches and other pressure groups to protest in line with the Constitution.

In their statement over the weekend the commission said it had “noted with regret that the police did violate the fundamental rights of the people as evidenced by the facts gathered on the ground”.

“The ZHRC has received complaints on allegations of police brutality and our ongoing investigations have revealed unbecoming and violent conduct on the part of the police,” ZHRC said in the statement.

“This has led to unfortunate physical and emotional injuries to some innocent persons including minors. This is regrettable and we call upon the authorities to ensure the perpetrators of such human rights violations are prosecuted.

“To that end, the ZHRC encourages members of the public who may have suffered human rights violations to come forward and lodge formal complaints with the commission.”

Legal experts said that the institutions had an obligation to “uphold the Constitution not political interests”.

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