It is factual and obvious that gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe have been directly linked to political developments and actors.
As the new season of electoral campaigns will likely be soon reaching high gear, there shall be need for all stakeholders to exercise vigilance and responsibility to avert the horrors of the past polls.
Learning from 2016, all stakeholders need to look out to curtail malpractices such as abductions of pro-democracy activists, unfair arrests, police brutality on peaceful protesters and authorities’ general intolerance to criticism of government policies as well as its performance.
Citizens must keep their focus on safeguarding each other’s rights from being abused by speaking out on behalf of each other’s rights.
ZimRights duly reminds the government of Zimbabwe of its constitutional obligations to ensure that the sad episodes of 2016 in which human rights violations escalated are not wantonly repeated and are quickly curtailed in 2017.
It would be a disappointing disservice to the people of Zimbabwe if another harmonised election in 2018 is held without the authorities fully implementing the democratic reforms stipulated by the people-driven Constitution adopted in May 2013.
Thus, President Robert Mugabe, the Cabinet and the two Houses of Parliament must ensure that all laws and practices are aligned with the Constitution well before the end of 2017, including electoral laws.
ZimRights is in full support of Human Rights Watch’s observation in its World Report 2017 that Zimbabwe’s neighbours, particularly South Africa and the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (Sadc), which previously mediated in the political crisis, have worryingly remained silent regarding the resurgent human rights violations of 2016.
This is more disconcerting in a general trend, where human rights globally are on the back foot, whereas solidarity is a key component of global human rights protection.
Zimbabwe has to honour its human rights obligations as affirmed by the United Nations’ working group on the Universal Periodic Review’s 142 recommendations regarding the state of human rights in Zimbabwe made in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2016.
It is, therefore, plainly worrying that the start of 2017 has already witnessed unfortunate developments that have the potential to further exarcebate the country’s precarious human rights situation.
Pertaining to the Bikita West parliamentary by-election whose polling date is January 21, ruling party Zanu PF officials such as Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa, have reportedly made statements allegedly aimed at inciting political violence.
The government has also started the year with a condemnable urban clean-up campaign of victimisation targeting vendors whom the authorities want to move out of the streets purportedly for causing typhoid.
While it is clear that typhoid has already affected over 200 people and needs to be stopped, the campaign against vendors in Harare seems to be dishonest given the neglect by the authorities of real causative factors such as broken-down water reticulation and sewer systems, which combine in the rainy season to incubate
waterborne diseases in affected areas such as Mbare.
The clean-up campaign is similar to the infamous Operation Murambatsvina carried out in June 2005, which directly affected 700 000 people, attracting the unreserved condemnation of the United Nations.
ZimRights maintains that destroying the livelihoods of the poor people can never be a just solution to the national crisis, but rather growing the economy, upgrading service delivery and democratising the national politics in order to provide opportunities and social security for all.