Zim must spruce up its rights record

IT IS high time Zimbabwe adheres to internationally-accepted human rights standards if its attendance at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland is to be meaningful.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa leads a delegation, which joined other world representatives this week, to present a paper on the state of human rights in Zimbabwe under the Universal Periodic Review) programme.
It defies logic that a country like Zimbabwe goes to such an international platform to speak about human rights issues, against a backdrop of serious rights abuses back home.

Several civil society groups have in the past few months taken to the streets to voice their concern on a number of issues, including pertinent issues of police heavy-handedness, unemployment, harassment of vendors, bond notes and the right to protest which were ruthlessly crushed — curiously — even in cases where they had court orders giving them the green light.

The right to protest is enshrined in the Constitution, meaning citizens are free to associate, express themselves and assemble.

However, these have remained pipe dreams, for President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government views dissent as something criminal.

Several basic human rights like the right to clean and safe water, decent shelter, health and education are routinely violated in the country.

Currently, Zimbabwe is battling critical water shortages, which exposes urban residents to communicable diseases like cholera and typhoid.

Thousands of children have dropped out of school owing to their failure to raise fees.

Food aid and offering residential stands — which normally happen on the eve of an election — have often been politicised as bait to win votes for the ruling Zanu PF.

There are people who have disappeared without trace in Zimbabwe with the most notable case being that of prominent anti-Mugabe activist Itai Dzamara.

The Geneva meeting should have afforded Mugabe and Zanu PF with an opportunity to reflect on the country’s human rights record. One would assume they would put their house in order before attending the critical rights meeting in Switzerland.

Cases of denying people food aid over political affiliation should not have been allowed to occur as recently as is alleged to have happened in the run-up to the Norton by-election.

It has become clear that food, land and any handouts meant to benefit all are diverted to strengthen Mugabe and Zanu PF’s grip on power.

We hope after the Geneva meeting, Zimbabwe will find it prudent to change its attitude towards human rights issues as Civil Society Organisations and opposition political parties have always complained that these are trampled upon.

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