IN one of the NewsDay issues this week, we carried a story in which the United Nations (UN) added its voice to the long-standing thorny and hot debate on the country’s contentious subject of sanctions. The UN opined that for this matter to be resolved once and for all, “Zimbabwe must address issues of human rights concerns”.
And, as usual, we are sure this call was dismissed with contempt and even frowned upon by those fervently campaigning for the unconditional removal of the sanctions.
Granted, the sanctions are now more than two decades old having been prompted by the United States Congress-initiated Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 to ostensibly provide for a transition to democracy and to promote economic recovery.
The sanctions were largely invited by the country’s bloody 2000 farm invasions that saw thousands of white commercial farmers booted from farms and the instigator of those invasions, the late former President Robert Mugabe, is long gone.
Though said to be targeted at individuals in government and particular companies, the sanctions have also seriously affected the innocent ordinary Zimbabwean.
However, we strongly believe that the UN’s fresh wise counsel is well meaning and should be heeded. It is simply speaking to Zimbabwe’s apparent failure to shake off its propensity to commit human rights abuses with impunity.
Examples of human rights abuses that have taken place since the chaotic 2000 land invasions read like a 1 000-page novel because these abuses occur almost every other day.
For instance, in the same NewsDay issue in which the UN appeal appeared, there was a story of dozens of former mine workers of Ran Mine in Bindura who have been thrown out of the mine compound dwellings having worked at the mine for years.
We hear that these former workers have been involved in a protracted legal tussle with some unnamed new owner of the mine. Mind you, these are workers who had not been paid for many years.
So what human rights have been violated here, one might ask?
First how can a court sit to hear a case in which the complainant is unknown and then rule in favour of that complainant? Second, the same court makes no reference to the welfare of the former workers.
Third, government watches akimbo as the workers and their families sleep in the open on the roadside without food and water after being kicked out of the mine compound by a faceless complainant.
Those workers have the right under our laws to be treated fairly and their dignity should be respected. But in this case, they have been treated like trash. What has happened to them is nothing short of dehumanising.
Those former Ran Mine workers have the right to be sheltered from the weather elements. Even criminals should never be treated the way those former miners are being treated.
And in their unfair treatment lies the issue of human rights abuse. Their right to fair trial was violated; their right to be paid for their labour was violated; their right to shelter was violated; their right to food was violated; their right to protection by the law was violated; their right to decent healthcare was violated; their right to access to clean water and proper sanitation was violated; and their children’s right to education was violated.
The list of human rights abuses perpetrated in this case is long.
And this is our point: As long as Zimbabwe continues to turn a blind eye to such and many other human rights abuses taking place daily in the country, this will not help its argument for the sanctions be removed.