Govt implored to ratify African laws on democracy

HUMAN rights lawyers have implored government to ratify and domesticate provisions of the African Charter that deals with democracy, elections and good governance in order to end the trauma of disputed elections that has stalked the country since 2002.

BY SILAS NKALA

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) made the call as it joined the world in celebrating the United Nations International Day of Democracy which is commemorated annually on September 15.

“In Zimbabwe, it is disheartening that democracy is showing greater strain,” said ZLHR in a statement released at the weekend.

“While President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance early this year, it is disheartening that government has not moved to ratify, domesticate and implement its provisions.”

This year’s commemorations were held under the theme Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World that aims at raising public awareness on democracy and good governance.

Zimbabwe since 2002 has been suffering from a legitimacy crisis following disputed elections. The country’s human rights record has also been unimpressive under the Zanu PF government.

“The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance seeks to promote adherence by African states to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights premised upon the supremacy of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law,” the ZLHR further said.

“It is one of the key instruments that will advance democracy, peace and security in Zimbabwe, the region and the continent as a whole.”

The decision to sign the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the lawyers said, was a progressive step towards promoting democracy in Zimbabwe, adding they were perturbed by the continued delay in ratification and domestication of such provisions.

“The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance can only be meaningful if the government takes concrete steps to ratify and domesticate all the provisions.

“It is saddening that the International Day of Democracy is being commemorated when Zimbabwe is emerging from a disputed election, where many citizens living in the diaspora were disenfranchised after they were not allowed to vote in the harmonised elections in violation of the Constitution and several regional instruments of which Zimbabwe is a state party,” the lawyers said.

They added: “Equally worrying was the use of excessive force and the killing of citizens during protests by members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, who used excessive force to disperse some protestors and innocent bystanders on 1 August 2018.”

ZLHR said it was also concerned with the persecution of human rights defenders, targeted for prosecution after the July 30 harmonised elections.

The lawyers challenged government to implement legal and administrative reforms to create a conducive environment that guarantees the respect and enjoyment of democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms as enshrined in the African Charter.

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