Zim urged to focus on the future

HARARE - Outgoing European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe Philipe Van Damme has said the country needs to break away from the past and focus on the future in order to develop.

Van Damme said this at the New Ambassador Hotel on Wednesday, where he was holding his “final” discussion, ending his four-year stay in the country.

“Zim (Zimbabwe) society is extremely inward looking, focusing to the past rather than the future.

“This mind-set needs to shift to make this country more inclusive,” Van Damme said in statements captured on the EU Twitter page.

Van Damme said he noticed this suspicion in bilateral talks with government at the beginning of his tenure.

“I am not a historian and not rewriting your history. I am looking forward. I hope Zim progresses towards a society where adverse opinions are listened to and tolerated…This will also be a challenge to the election winner — how will he talk to the ‘losers’?

“The elections have shown that Zimbabwe society is deeply divided, as we have seen in the elections.

“It would be nice to see a more inclusive future for Zimbabwe…,” Van Damme said.

He said there was need for the country to deal with issues of human rights violations, documenting them and protecting victims and witnesses.

His comments come on the backdrop of the shooting of at least six people during a demonstration against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s failure to timeously announce results of the July 30 harmonised elections.

Zimbabwe has a tainted human rights record, characterised by reports of abductions and torture of activists.

During former president Robert Mugabe’s regime, there were several reports of people that were abducted by alleged State security agents and notable among them is journalist-cum-activist Itai Dzamara, who has been missing for the past three years.

Mugabe would brutalise his opponents, which resulted in violence escalating especially during election period, with the most deadly being in 2008 when several people were forcibly displaced from their homes, maimed, raped, while some were murdered.

Though Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa has tried in speech to bridge the gap between the citizens, on the ground there are still serious divisions and reports of harassment, abductions and assaults have resurfaced.

Only recently, several opposition activists ran away from their homes following a serious clampdown from suspected State security agents.

The activists claimed they were being harassed and receiving death threats.

According to the country’s Constitution every citizen has the right to freedom of assembly and association, which many civil society organisations and analysts say is lacking under the Zanu PF administration.

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