2017 did not deliver on human rights: Machisa

HARARE - The year 2017 is one we cannot celebrate in terms of proper human rights upliftment, realisation, protection and defending, a human rights executive has said.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa said the internal political fights in the ruling Zanu PF party ended up giving us a military solution that we partially accepted although internationally it is not the right way of doing things.

“At the time the social economic status of individuals was deplorable as people could not access their money and at one time civil servants were not getting their salaries timely.

“Around August, all of a sudden we could not get basic commodities and this was a signal that somewhere the economy was in the doldrums,” said Machisa.

To complicate things further, there was the non-executive backdoor power bestowed on former first lady Grace Mugabe.

“She became the mouthpiece of government and Zanu PF which angered not only those in her party but the generality of Zimbabweans.

“Here was a person with no power giving instructions to government officials.”

Machisa said in a nutshell, the solution that we got through military intervention was proper at that time because everyone wanted to remove Mugabe.

“This includes me, the war veterans and people of Zimbabwe regardless of political party affiliation. We wanted him to go.

“We can’t deny that the military played a leading role to oust Mugabe who I hasten to say was democratically elected without looking at how it happened.

“And you cannot run away from a coup, when the military moves in and removes a sitting president that is a coup.

“But we celebrated and the international community celebrated with us because none wanted Mugabe any longer.”

Machisa said he is happy that the army has gone back to barracks.

“But I would like to warn the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) that too much embedment with the military who have already been thrown in a number of key positions will make people think that this is exactly what the army wanted — to grab power and rule.

“We have observed the critical positions that former military men now have in government and Zanu PF and we hope that these appointments will leave the people enjoying their democratic rights.”

While towards year end Zimbabweans celebrated there shouldn’t be a feeling today that we are in a military state.

“We want to have a feeling that we are in a civilian state where fundamental human rights are respected and democracy flourishes without anyone subverting that process. I believe that the military guys who joined civilian life completely left their uniforms and hearts in the barracks.

“I am talking about the behaviour and it is too early to say if really the hearts and uniforms were left. Let us give them a little bit of time and measure them later.”

He said his major concern was that we have individuals occupying high offices in government who are associated with the violence of 2008.

“We have to keep our eyes, ears, mouths on them because they can easily repeat their violent episodes as we move towards this year’s elections.”

Machisa said there is need for an election completely divorced from violence and any action that will discredit the results.

“We hope Mnangagwa will welcome international bodies that can come and overseas the elections and this requires political will.

“The government should also proffer the roadmap of elections because we are in January and are not aware when we will have elections.

“We want to know who is being invited to come observe and if they will be any electoral reforms before the vote.”

The ZimRights director called for tolerance when dealing with issues around Gukurahundi.

“Recent arrests in Bulawayo of activists protesting for this issue should be condemned because this is a genuine issue.

“The issue of Gukurahundi should be handled with care — it is very fragile.

“It is important not to inflict more pain on the people of Midlands and Matabeleland because the police arrests add salt on the wounds.

“Mnangagwa should look at this issue with urgency and recognise that these people have a genuine case.”

He said as for the way forward on the Gukurahundi issue there are so many processes that have been done before and the only thing Mnangagwa can do is to allow people in Matabeleland and Midlands to speak.

As for the corruption purge going on in the country, Machisa said his only submission is that those who committed crimes of corruption should be arrested.

“But this should not be selective because within the system there are many who also committed serious crimes.”

He urged the new government to help find missing persons.

“As we travel we hear there are individuals who could be missing, so we urge the president to investigate all the missing persons so that they are found,” he said.

The ZimRights director’s wish this year is to have a free, fair and democratic election where there is no violence and there is transparency in Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and government.