BY VENERANDA LANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF government has been urged to amend laws and enshrine the principles in the African Charter on Democracy and Governance (ACDEG) in order to improve issues of human rights and democracy in the country.
This comes after the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) recently called out Zimbabwe for violating human rights and democracy principles enshrined in ACDEG.
Zimbabwe is signatory to the charter which was adopted by the AU in 2007, with 34 countries having ratified the charter, and Zimbabwe is in the process of ratifying it after it appended its signature to the charter on March 21, 2018.
After numerous reports of human rights abuses, which include targeted arrests of opposition and workers’ union leaders, abductions and heavy handedness on ordinary citizens and arrests of journalists, the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat this week said the continental body was closely monitoring the Zimbabwean situation in terms of breaching ACDEG
“The chairperson further encourages the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law allowing for freedom of the media, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and the right to information.
Violations of these rights are a breach of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,” AU Commission chairperson Mahamat said.
Constitutional expert James Tsabora said while the statement by the AU chairperson was welcome, it was disappointing that they had to wait for UN to first make a stern pronunciation on Zimbabwe.
“Firstly it is disappointing that the AU had to wait for the UN to say something first about the situation in Zimbabwe. They must shout first because the AU is closer to home,” Tsabora said.
He said in order to show its seriousness in promoting human rights and democracy, Zimbabwe must not only align its laws to the Constitution, but must also ensure that all the laws that are being aligned include the principles enshrined in ACDEG.
“ACDEG passed through Parliament, and it is now up to government to take the principles in ACDEG and put them into the relevant laws. Government has not done that yet. They have said they will approve ACDEG, but they have not changed the laws to meet ACDEG standards which touch on several issues pointed out by the AU which include elections, democracy and human rights.
“In the current alignment process, there are no specific laws that have used ACDEG as a standard. Those are some of the shortcomings of the alignment process.
“Government should tell us which are the specific laws that they are practising that have accommodated ACDEG standards? They are amending laws, but are not infusing ACDEG standards,” he said.
In his statement on the commemoration of Heroes Day on Monday, Mnangagwa claimed that his government had promoted constitutional democracy and “a just, open society” and claimed to be the victim.
“Thank you for remaining calm and peaceful in the wake of some misguided calls for violent protests and demonstrations by the opposition elements with support from foreign and civil society supporters and backers,” Mnangagwa said.
Article 2 of ACDEG is explicit on principles of democracy and the respect for human rights, the principles of rule of law are premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of the Constitution, promotion the fight against corruption, tolerance, transparency and accountability, press freedom, and several other human rights.
ACDEG also stresses the importance of principles of political pluralism as articulated in article 3(11), which reads: “State parties shall strengthen political pluralism and recognise the role, rights and responsibilities of legally constituted political parties, including opposition political parties, which should be given a status under national law.”
Article 4(1) of ACDEG also stipulates that: “State parties shall commit themselves to promote democracy, the principle of the rule of law and human rights,” and 4(2) that: “State parties shall recognise popular participation through universal suffrage as the inalienable right of the people.”
BY VENERANDA LANGA