ZANU PF Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba on Thursday scooped the Human Rights People’s Choice awards, beating MDC-T MP for Harare West Jessy Majome and other notable figures like Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mkoko.
However, Chonotimba’s victory immediately sent tongues wagging with people taking to social media platform claiming the outspoken MP was not the best candidate for the award as he was linked to past human rights abuses.
The awards were sponsored by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). Chinotimba became a clear winner in a contest in which people voted through texts and Whatsapp. He also won the Male MP Rights Defender award while Majome won in the female category.
In the awards which were presented in Bulawayo on Thursday, Chinotimba battled it out with notable human rights advocates, Rebecca Chisamba, Beatrice Mtetwa, Jesting Mukoko, Phathisa Nyathi, Jessie Majome, in the new category called the People’s Choice.
Chinotimba, whose humour has often left fellow lawmakers and ordinary people in stitches, beat four other contestants to win the inaugural People’s Choice Award for 2014.
Media and Democracy scholar Pedzisai Ruhanya described the whole event as a farce, chronicling how in 2002 Chinotimba invaded the High Court and threatened Justice James Devitte for he ruled that the political murder of MDC-T activists Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika was “a wicked act.”
“This is scandalous and a negation of transitional justice issues given the glaring and largely undisputed cases of human rights violations associated with Chinotimba,” Ruhanya said.
“His role during human rights violations associated with the so-called Zanu PF violent land reform in the farming community, rural areas are too glaring to be ignored. There can never be a cover up of the human rights transgressions associated with Chinotimba and his colleagues in the war veterans association.”
He said the only noble thing Zimrights could do was to revoke the award.
Human rights defenders Dewa Mavhinga and Prosper Simbarashe said Chinotimba’s name is synonymous to human rights abuses and political violence and the award was a mockery to Zimbabweans.
“We believe there is no justification whatsoever for ZimRights to honour Chinotimba at the Community Human Rights Defender Awards held as part of the commemoration of the International Human Rights day.
This blatant mockery of human rights activism leaves a bitter test in one’s mouth. Chinotimba is infamous for massive human rights violations both civil and political rights and socio-economic abuses,” Mavhinga and Simbarashe said.
Clement Moyo wrote on his Facebook wall: “How can this be? Something is definitely wrong with ZimRights. There are people somewhere in the rural areas who are waiting for a democratic space to pin Chinotimba for murder and rape”.
But Zimrights director Okay Machisa defended his organisation saying the people of Zimbabwe had voted for Chinotimba.
“People can comment as much as they want, but we did not nominate Chinotimba. We simply created an opportunity and the people in his constituency chose him,” he said.
Explaining the process Machisa said all provinces had fielded ten candidates of their choice and 110 names were submitted to ZimRights and people voted for him. He said the award was focusing on 2014 alone.
But speaking on his victory Chinotimba said he hoped his achievement would please President Robert Mugabe and his two vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
“Despite the negative coverage in the media the people chose me. Vakaona ndisina mhosva dzandainenerwa,” he said bubbling with excitement.