Zim must spruce up rights record

HARARE - Today, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Human Rights Day. December 10 honours the day when — after World War II in 1948 — the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, for the southern African nation, there is little to celebrate. For the leadership, the day provides an opportunity for self-introspection to check whether the country’s human rights record is indeed “clean”.

Only early last month, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa led a large delegation to Geneva, Switzerland for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UNHCR UPR) meeting where he glossed over Zimbabwe’s deplorable human rights record.

Mnangagwa’s report claimed — and patently falsely had the UNHRC bothered to check — the country had made progress in implementing the 130 recommendations it accepted UN member states in 2012.

The report also gave undue credit to the Robert Mugabe-led administration, claiming it was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Yet Mugabe does not seem interested in maintaining peace in Zimbabwe in the face of a challenge to his long-rule or reversing the woeful drop in living standards that has pauperised his people. All he is obsessed with is personal power and will not brook any challenge to his rule.

Journalist-turned activist Itai Dzamara was abducted in March last year and remains missing to this day for daring to challenge Mugabe’s rule.

Several other abductions and kidnappings and torture at the hands of State agents have also been widespread, with the latest involving Patson, brother to Itai, and colleagues in the dead of the night while returning from Mufakose, Harare on the eve of a planned anti-government protest.

The police have often been brutal and ruthless when crushing peaceful demonstrations and protests despite the Constitution allowing these.

Selective application of the law, where opposition party gatherings and demonstrations are routinely banned even when the courts have permitted them, is a typical trait of the Mugabe regime’s modus operandi.

The demolition of people’s homes — deemed to be illegal structures — has become part of Zanu PF’s DNA as happened to houses on Bak storage land along the Harare-Masvingo highway as well as Chikanga in Mutare last month.

It is known the world over that slum dwellers are the worst affected as they are denied their rights to adequate housing, water and sanitation, education and health while they are subjected to violence from the police and criminal gangs with the threat of forcible eviction — often in the absence of due process, safeguards or appropriate alternatives — perennially hovering over their heads.

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