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Sad state of human rights in Zimbabwe

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By Lynette Mhlanga

SIX Bindura University students including ZINASU secretary general Beloved Chiweshe, are in custody for insulting and denouncing Stan Mudenge and President Robert Mugabe.

They are being charged with contravening Section 19 (1) and Section 24 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

According to John Rawls “laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust”.

Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. POSA is a law that calls for a review of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

What really are we talking about here?

In simple terms, Human rights are defined as what have because we are human beings, nothing else. However, it is unfortunate that Zimbabweans are being denied of this important aspect of their very existence. The human rights situation in Zimbabwe makes extreme sad reading. It is mired in controversies and sagas which have all pointed out to the erosion of basic fundamental human rights for the Zimbabwean people. To make matters worse the Zanu PF government has in the recent times shown it has no intention of improving its human rights record by even failing to put Zimbabwe forward as a candidate on the United Nations Human Rights Council. As a serial violator of human rights the current government continues to keep Zimbabwe on the slopes, hence the human rights situation continues to deteriorate. It is inescapable that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe is closely linked to issues of governance and the rule of law.

Due to Zanu PF’s organised violence and torture many Zimbabweans are now living in exile with many seeking asylum in different countries. Approximately three million Zimbabweans have fled the country not just because of the deteriorating economic situation but mostly because the current government has gagged the nation in an attempt to stop people from discussing important political issues. The young people left in Zimbabwe have no hope for a future at all, their hopes have been dashed and their civil liberties and human rights are under constant threat from the relentless state security agents.

In Zimbabwe today, people do not enjoy the right to free speech; they have no right to the freedom of movement and association. These are rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to free speech is a cornerstone for the protection of other human rights. Freedom of _expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of humanity. This right applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of pluralism tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society. In the recent years the Zimbabwean government has withdrawn these rights gagging the nation in a bid to stop anyone criticising the current president or his ministers.

The government in Zimbabwe has slowly but surely abandoned the rule of law deteriorating easily into a constitutional dictatorship, courtesy of POSA, AIPPA and dreaded Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act. The judiciary is no longer independent and many judges have in the past resigned rather than work in courts where the CIO dictates to them the terms of justice. The executive does not enforce any judgments which are not in their favour and this leaves courts as toothless bull dogs. Zimbabwe is now slipped into a police state or banana republic where many innocent people have died in the hands of the Zimbabwean police and secret agents. Why arrest students for expressing themselves? Hanna Arendt said “It seems that a man who is nothing but a man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for others to treat him as a fellow man” Whither to Zimbabwe?

What do people think is the way forward in such a state? The old opposition parties albeit having tried have largely failed to penetrate Mugabe‘s fortress. The elections are rigged and stolen away from the people vote against it, during elections people are assaulted and intimidated into submission. In the rural areas the village people are forced to vote for ZANU PF in order to get food handouts or else they are condemned to starvation. In a situation where the inflation rate is soaring, rural and urban poverty rates are escalating and our people continue to starve it is high time we look for the way forward. We need new tactics, new strategic and charismatic leadership, and someone suitable to tackle these critical issues.

Professor Arthur Mutambara came at a time when the opposition was and is still in total disarray, disorganisation, acrimony and bitter division. He possesses the intellectual mettle and political stamina to weed out Robert Mugabe, his cronies and the ruthless Zanu PF machinery out of the Zimbabwean political field and condemn them to political wilderness. His oratical abilities are second to none and style of deliverance makes him a marvel to listen to. Prof. Mutambara’s political evangelism largely powered by his strong beliefs in generational intervention, democratic values, dynamic and strategic leadership, universal application of the rule of law, social justice, globalisation and economic vibrancy resonates very well with the nimble minded Zimbabweans in search of real leadership not populists.

Prof. Mutambara could be a new figure to conventional opposition politics in Zimbabwe but obviously not new to the politics of peaceful resistance. Some have likened Mutambara to the luminaries of the liberation struggle such as the late Herbert Chitepo and Dr Edison Zvobgo to name a few. If given support, Prof Mutambara has the vision and ability to take Zimbabwe to new political horizons never reached before. His detractors try day and night to discredit his credentials and experience in politics but will not succeed. However, those with greater vision and a more rational spectacle will rally behind the professor and give him the support and the mandate that he deserves to save country and bring prosperity to Zimbabweans. Democracy means the right to criticise, the right to say what we feel about the administration of the country. A government by the people, for the people means people can talk without fear or arbitrary laws.

This new party that Prof Mutambara leads will ensure that your human rights and civil liberties are respected, protected and implemented, and that the courts will be left free to do justice without any interference. Lets all work together against one common enemy here – ZANU PF!

Food for thought.

Lynn Mhlanga is a human rights activist and Doctoral candidate in Human Rights based in England and can be contacted at lynn.lynette@yahoo.co.uk

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