Zim's human rights take sharp decline

HARARE - As Zimbabwe yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Human Rights Day, the Daily News on Sunday spoke to a number of political and social analysts who all agreed the year 2016 witnessed the worst in terms of human rights abuses.

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said Zimbabwe’s human rights situation took a sharp decline this year in respect of all types of rights that include civil and political, social and economic, as well as third generation rights.

“While the story of the lack of promotion and respect of civil and political rights is perhaps more dominant due to the repressive nature of the state and its hard-handed handling of dissent throughout the year, a worse decay is perhaps the socio-economic one, which has touched many more lives in disastrous fashions.

“The mismanagement of the economy has had effects on people’s rights and access to economic opportunities, work, health, education and the generally better life that rights are supposed to provide citizens with access to.”

Lewanika said as the country approaches an election year, and with Zanu PF’s own persuasive political machine in tatters through infighting, it is likely that the easy resort to coercion will make the human rights situation regarding civil and political liberties worse.

“If unchecked, the situation can deteriorate to June 2008 levels. The same applies to the promotion and respect to socio-economic rights. As those who are supposed to be ensuring progressive attainment of socio-economic rights focus on attaining power for themselves, the national economic and social responsibilities will be left untended, with prospects of further economic decline and social degradation likely.

“One, however, hopes that as we move towards the election the need to signal some positive performance may yield some concession in terms of respecting rights across the board, especially through allowing people to enjoy their rights to organise, protest, engage in free speech, as well as enhanced access to economic opportunities as the regime tries to save itself, because ultimately, the state of the economy and the state of peoples’ rights and access in that realm will in large part be the terrain on which the 2018 election will be fought,” said Lewanika.

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said: “International Human Rights Day is a day for Zimbabweans to mourn the continued trampling of their rights. The life of a Zimbabwean remains perched in the Hobbesian state of nature where life is “poor, nasty, brutish and short — continual fear, and danger of violent death”.

“Zimbabwe remains arguably the most dangerous country for the opposition and human rights organisations in the Sadc region. Zimbabweans are more afraid of their own government than anything else.

“This year, economic rights were the most affected. Bond notes infringes on our basic human rights such as the right to clean water, food and health, freedom of association, movement and many other such rights.

“Our lives and choices have been crippled. People are spending hours on end in banking queues just to get as little as 25 bond notes.

“While the desperate government will rail road Zimbabweans to yet another sham elections, I fear that due to hardships many Zimbabwe will not participate in the forthcoming elections for they doubt whether their vote will count for anything judging by previous elections, some of which were mini civil wars.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said the human rights situation in Zimbabwe is dire.

“We have a government that has got absolutely no respect for people’s fundamental human rights and liberties.

“Human rights activists continue to be hunted down like treasonous bandits, harassed, beaten up and arrested on very flimsy criminal charges.

“Itai Dzamara is still missing and the Zanu PF regime isn’t bothered one iota about what happened to him. As we approach the elections in 2018, the situation can only get worse.”

Gutu said the regime is deeply fractured along factional lines, bankrupt and paranoid.

“The cash crisis will inevitably give rise to enhanced civil unrest and the political turbulence will reach boiling point as the do-or-die elections in 2018 are approaching.

“There’s only one viable solution to the Zimbabwean political and socio-economic crisis and that is the beleaguered Zanu PF regime must simply go. President Robert Mugabe, who is the face of Zanu PF tyranny, should immediately pack his bags at State House and retreat into retirement at Gushungo Estates.”

Legislator Jessie Majome said: “I’m saddened that Zimbabwe had been declining in its human rights record. Civil and political rights have been the most butchered, spurred by the regime’s increasing insecurity over its hold on power and consequent paranoia.

“The State has not thought twice about crushing even crude force the fundamental freedoms of expression among them to demonstrate, petition and assemble.

“The courts now often seem to of late be shackled to these human rights violations with ZBC licences and bond notes judgments.

“The year 2017 looks overcast already by the storm clouds of a violent election. The thunder will strike more if nothing drastic happens, such as the Human Rights Commission and the courts standing boldly and firmly on the side of the people.”

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said: “Zimbabwe has done well in adopting a fairly democratic Constitution that protects human rights. What is lagging far behind is implementation especially human rights and other commissions.

“There is also need to transform State institutions that include the police and Judiciary.

“In this regard and at a practical level we are still far from enjoying rights and the government is still violating rights, examples being beatings, abductions of protestors, partisan and selective application of the law and disregard for court rulings.”

Mukundu added that the Zimbabwean government must see the necessity of building strong institutions as well as a citizenry that has confidence in its leadership.

“Entrenching rights to the full extent is one such way of nation building. As of now we are very much like Angola and DRC where the rule of law does not matter.”

Political activist Silvanos Mudzvova said: “It has been the most difficult year in Zimbabwe to talk about respect for human rights mainly from State security organs. As the State tried to contain demonstrations in Zimbabwe they ended up with police brutality, attacking people excessing their constitutional guaranteed rights.

“Also the rise of social movements resulted in abductions and torture of activists by State security organs, this clearly indicates Zimbabwe does not respect United Nations’ statues for human rights.”

Mudzvova said 2017 is going to be worse as we move towards 2018 elections.

“I foresee a dark phase in terms of respect for human rights as Zanu PF will try to hold onto power despite their failure to fix the economy. Zimbabweans should brace for more human rights violations as the economy is going to fall in early 2017 and people will demand answers from their government.”

Producer Zenzele Ndebele said: “This year, we saw the rise of social movements and as usual police responded with violence when there were demonstrations. A lot of people were beaten up during the July 6 stay away, the kombi riots in Epworth and the demonstrations in Beitbridge. Zimbabwe is still a long way in respecting human rights because even when people had obtained court orders police still blocked them.”

Women rights activist Edinah Masanga said: “Observation of human rights was appalling this year as is now the modus vivendi under the current government. Normally when we talk of human rights people are quick to think only about physical violations of human rights but we must also allude to the failure to provide public goods by government as a gross violation of economic and social rights which also form the core of human rights in general.

“As for the coming year, I see physical violence escalating because this government will want to tighten its grip on the people and intimidate them into voting for them come 2018.

“I think that Mugabe’s government takes all the trophies for being the best for disenfranchising their people of the very basic human rights — the same people they purport to represent.”

Political commentator Ivan Vava said: “Well, this year, we have witnessed the worst in terms abuse of human rights mainly perpetrated by the enforcement agents against citizens and police brutality escalated.

“Journalists have also been at the receiving end and we are likely going to see an escalation of human rights abuses as we gear up for the elections in 2018. There is absolutely no guarantee that it will be a peaceful year since Zanu PF officials have been making reckless statements to the effect that they will incorporate the army to coerce Zimbabweans in voting for them.

“It’s a worrying development in that those who have a constitutional obligation to uphold and protect the rights of citizens are at the forefront in perpetrating human rights abuses on the citizens with impunity.”

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