Comment: Chinamasa sentiments over human rights a cause for concern

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The housing of the commission on human rights on Monday provides hope the commission may begin putting its house in order, so that when legislation enabling their operations is put in place, they will hit the ground running.

Little and basic things such as office furniture and even stationery have bogged down the operations of other crucial bodies which, even with Acts of Parliament backing their existence, have found themselves without a home.

The Zimbabwe Commission on Human Rights has found a home at Fournos Building in Harare, officially opened by Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday.

While the development is welcome, the sentiments expressed by the minister over and about the human rights commission raises questions about the minister’s views on what the commission should stand for and therefore more questions over the prospect of having the commission reporting to the minister as suggested in some quarters.

Chinamasa described the hype over politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe and the violence’s perpetual pole position on the human rights violations list as an “obsession”.

Zimbabweans, he said, should not concentrate on political violence when talking about human rights violations but should shift their glances to issues of economic, social and cultural rights.

He said the tendency to “concentrate” on political violence would distract people from the other types of human rights violations perpetrated “by non-State actors”.

The tone of the minister was such that one would be tempted to speculate the minister’s stance on reports that would be sent to him by the commission were he to superintend over it.

According to Chinamasa, Zimbabwe’s most
worrisome human rights violations were perhaps the economic sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe by the European Union.

“The European countries that imposed sanctions are State parties to conventions of economic rights, yet they do not understand that by imposing illegal sanctions, they are violating rights to development by denying us rights to sell our diamonds and develop our economy,” Chinamasa said on Monday.

Chinamasa is also of the view that the bombing of Libya by Nato was a human rights violation, no matter how subjective such an assertion would be, given the situation on the ground in Libya.

Human rights violations that we expect our commission to deal with first and foremost are those involving the nightmare that Zimbabweans are subjected to by politicians during election time.

Given the controversy that has surrounded the putting together of terms of reference for the commission, one can easily tell the minister’s tone was no doubt in support of the idea that political human rights violations that happened prior to the inclusive government be deemed water under the bridge.

We recognise the position of Chinamasa as Justice minister and therefore his relevance where the rights commission is concerned, but the position that his ministry has taken with regards the commission’s terms of reference and the sentiments he expressed yesterday makes people sceptical about the stance he would take if he takes charge of the commission.