HomeNews‘Dzamara’s disappearance has tarnished Zim image’

‘Dzamara’s disappearance has tarnished Zim image’

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The disappearance of journalist and democracy activist Itai Dzamara has further tarnished Zimbabwe’s human rights image, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson Elasto Mugwadi told Parliament yesterday.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Mugwadi told the Thematic committee on Human Rights that there was urgent need to ratify conventions against torture and disappearance of people, adding the ZHRC had received thousands of petitions from international organisations calling on it to ensure people’s rights were protected.

“Disappearance of persons in a highly securitised country like Zimbabwe does not please the international community because that is violation of human rights,” Mugwadi said.

“We have recommended that investigations be escalated and compliance made with the court order that the police should report to the courts and the Dzamara family on their progress on a fortnightly basis, and we hope our security systems will continue to be tightened so that people do not suffer similar fates in the future.”

He told the committee that local authorities were the major violators of human rights due to failure to provide service delivery, the unconstitutional manner in which they wanted to introduce prepaid water meters, lack of services for vendors, and even land issues.

“There is also a lot of violation of civil and political rights where chiefs in the past June by-elections were said to force people to vote for certain political parties under duress. Mining companies are also some of the biggest human rights offenders and have left pits open after mining, which has caused deaths,” the ZHRC boss said.

Mugwadi said at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where there was a prison riot recently, there was 69,9% overcrowding as 2 270 inmates were housed there against a capacity of 1 360.

He said the food and health conditions of prisoners left a lot to be desired. Mugwadi said there was no running water and prisoners used buckets to relieve themselves, conditions which he said were in contravention of sections 50, 51 and 53 of the Constitution.

He said the Chingwizi floods were man-made and called for precautions to ensure there were no disastrous consequences on displaced people.

Mugwadi said people’s rights to education were infringed resulting in children walking 12 to 35 kilometres to try and access education, and even health facilities.

He said the ZHRC had completed a report on the Tsholotsho floods but had no money to provide bounded copies as per the requirements of Parliament.

The commission was suffering from serious funding constraints where 13 officers had to date resigned due to non-payment of salaries.
“We need 120 human rights officers but currently they are only 45 because of poor conditions of service,” Mugwadi said.

“We owe Zimra $20 000, medical aid $36 000 and have other debts and salary arrears. Basically we are doing national service, but we are committed and will continue.”

Zimbabwe was also failing to pay $3 000 subscriptions to the network of African National Human Rights Institutions as well as those of the International Coordinating Committee of Human Rights.

About 68% of the population were said to be in the dark about their rights, with 44% males who had never read the Constitution as compared to 77% females.

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