ON Wednesday, a UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group confirmed critics’ worst fears that there has been no change in the country’s human rights record under President Emmerson Mnangagwa despite claims by the second republic that it has introduced sweeping reforms.
From the United States, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany and neighbours South Africa, the message is the same — there is a need to break from the past and chart a new trajectory anchored on reforms to guarantee basic rights to all Zimbabweans.
On assuming power about four years ago, Mnangagwa promised sweeping reforms as he projected his administration as different from his predecessor the late Robert Mugabe’s, but entrenched repression mars his rule, with harsh laws against critics being polished for implementation.
Questions over the independence of the Judiciary and commissions like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) loom large while democratic space continues to shrink following a sustained assault on operations of civic society organisations.
Worryingly, this is so when the country is headed towards the much-awaited harmonised elections in 2023.
In its recommendations, neighbouring South Africa called on Zimbabwe to ensure the alignment of the Zimbabwe Humans Rights Council Act with the Paris Principles, and the Constitution and provide funding for the protection and promotion of human rights.
It’s not surprising that South Africa has made those demands as it has provided shelter to thousands of undocumented Zimbabweans fleeing political persecution in Harare.
The roadmap to cleaning the country’s human rights record is simple — perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to book, investigations into circumstances leading to the post-2018 election killings and disappearance of Itai Dzamara must be instituted and alignment of laws to the Constitution among other reforms yearn for implementation.
Mnangagwa must open a chapter for human rights for the country to be readmitted to the community of nations. Any attempt at glossing over the necessary reforms to guarantee human rights will not take us anywhere.