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Tsvangirai in climbdown


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday told the visiting United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that rights violations in the country were declining and he was hopeful the next election would be free and fair.

Tsvangirais position was at variance with what his party MDC-T and civic society groups have described as an escalation of rights violations ahead of elections that President Robert Mugabe wants held this year.

Pillay had told the MDC-T leader in a closed-door meeting that Zimbabwe must take steps to prevent a recurrence of political violence that marred the 2008 presidential elections.

We raised a number of issues, told her (Pillay) everything, we had nothing to hide and explained to her the human rights situation in Zimbabwe before and during the unity government, Tsvangirai said.

There has been progress on the countrys human rights situation although more still needs to be done. We hope to have a free and fair election.
Earlier, before the meeting, Tsvangirais party had said it expected the Premier to give Pillay a briefing on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

According to the Prime Ministers Newsletter published yesterday, MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Pillays visit came at the right time when violence was escalating.

Among the rights violations the MDC-T wanted raised, were the alleged intimidation of ordinary citizens by securocrats who continued to behave as an extension of Zanu PFs security department, and the selective application of the law.

Pillay told journalists Tsvangirai had apprised her of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
She urged the government to ensure the speedy operationalisation of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).

He (Tsvangirai) raised many issues and I also asked him what the country intends to do to
protect people against violence during elections, Pillay said.

He told me that his goal was to have successful elections.

Before meeting Tsvangirai, Pillay had met ZHRC commissioners, civic society organisations, a Senate thematic committee on human rights and Senate president Edna Madzongwe.

ZHRC chairperson Reginald Austin told reporters after meeting Pillay that the commission would only start operating after the Human Rights Bill became law. The Bill is still before the House of Assembly and public hearings on the proposed new law were characterised by violence from alleged Zanu PF functionaries last year.

Austin, however, said the Bill would not address past violations as it was a mandate of reconciliatory frameworks.

Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, took a swipe at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) allegedly aligned to Zanu PF saying they were not human rights defenders, but bogus organisations that crop up simply because the commissioner is in the country.
He said their involvement was meant to divert Pillays attention away from the real human rights issues affecting the country.

Goodson Nguni, chairman of Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations, an alleged Zanu PF NGO, said the issue of human rights violations was hallucinations from the British-funded NGOs.

He said: MDC a Western puppet was responsible for the suffering of the people in Zimbabwe through sanctions.

Nguni walked out of the meeting held at Parliament after he was reprimanded by Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs secretary David Mangota for lampooning the MDCs.

Pillay is expected to meet Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa today and also President Robert Mugabe before she winds up her trip on Friday.

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