Busy year for human rights group

HARARE - Following the departure of former President Robert Mugabe after a controversial military intervention in November 2017, the year 2018 started with high expectations of the opening up of the democratic space and more respect for human rights.

The 2018 elections were expected to lead to a democratic transition and economic turnaround after decades of a socio-economic and political downturn, while human rights organisations saw an opportunity to contribute through various community programmes.

Formed in 1992, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) began the 26th year of existence on a high note with a leadership renewal process on April 30, 2018, at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Masvingo.

The new leadership led by chairperson Takesure Musiiwa, vice chairperson Themba Chivheya and treasurer, Janet Kanavheti, vowed to strengthen the grassroots organisation’s structure and immediately thrust the organisation into preparations for the 2018 harmonised elections.

Throughout April, ZimRights in collaboration with organisations such as the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) carried out outreach to encourage people to register to vote in the final phase of the new biometric voter registration (BVR) process.

The road shows covered the remote areas of the country, including small towns and were also attractive to members of the public who also enjoyed the music and dance performances.

In May, ZimRights celebrated the 5th anniversary of the new democratic Constitution, calling upon the government of Zimbabwe to align laws, implement reforms for free and fair elections, protect, promote and fulfil citizens’ rights, operationalise constitutional commissions, and implement devolution of power

When the voter inspection of the provisional voters’ roll started in May, ZimRights embarked on a similar extensive awareness blitz as part of its election civic education campaign titled “10x10 Tese Kunovhota/Sonke Siyevhota.”

To aid public literacy on voting processes, ZimRights in collaboration with ERC produced a voter Pocket Manual (VPM) which was distributed to citizens during road shows and door-to-door campaigns.

A typical week would see events held in different and far-flung places such as Chiwundura in Midlands, Overspill in Epworth, Nkulumane in Bulawayo, Huruyadzo Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza and many other ares.

As part of the voter mobilisation programme, ZimRights engaged a private radio station for community programmes and Ziya Cultural Arts who are behind the popular drama Sabhuku Vharazipi for an educative video skit which clocked over 40 000 views in one week on social media platforms.

Ahead of the elections, ZimRights trained over 400 election observers and voter mobilisers across the country who also helped with door-to-door voter education and mobilisation.

Following the 2018 harmonised elections, ZimRights has continued its defence of human rights particularly calling for justice for the victims of the August 1 shootings.

“ZimRights is of the position that any process to find redress to these violations needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness, sincerity, transparency and accountability by all holders of public offices, including the security forces,” said Musiiwa after he also condemned the post-election crackdown on opposition leaders.

ZimRights, through its director, Okay Machisa, has also been involved in regional outreaches following the contested elections.

On October 30, 2018, Machisa was part of the civil society delegation under the banner of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), which met with Sadc chairperson and Namibia president, Hage Geingob in Windhoek.

“There is an unfolding economic meltdown which has resulted in high levels of inflation, an increase in the domestic debt which has compromised the government’s capacity for provision of social services.

“If left unresolved this has regional economic, social and security effects,” the delegation warned, apart from highlighting the crisis of legitimacy created by the 2018 elections.

Following the resolution of its AGM, ZimRights has been embarking on a programme of strengthening its grassroots presence through establishment of new community structures in border areas such as Kariba, Beitbridge, Binga and Victoria Falls.

Machisa also addressed a diplomatic briefing on the Zimbabwe situation at the Sirra Burgers Park Hotel in Pretoria, South Africa, on December 6.

On December 10, 2018, ZimRights commemorated the International Human Rights Day which marked the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), with a well-attended community event in Bulawayo.


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