ZIMBABWE Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa says there has been a relative improvement to the country’s human rights situation since President Robert Mugabe’s forced exit November last year.
Machisa was speaking during a joint media briefing this past week following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent signing of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) at an extra ordinary AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The press briefing was called by Misa Zimbabwe, ZimRights and Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to both acknowledge the signing and to urge the President to expedite the process of domesticating the legal instrument.
Asked if he felt the country’s rights situation has improved under Mugabe’s successors, Machisa said things had improved although not to the levels being demanded by rights defenders.
“I am still facing the same challenges that we used to have,” Machisa said.
“We are still in a process of getting somewhere and I think we cannot say we are better. But we are not at the same level that we were in the time of Robert Mugabe.”
Since coming into office, President Mnangagwa has, among the positives, signed the Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill into law, effectively setting in motion the operations of a commission that lay dormant under Mugabe.
He has also appointed the peace commission’s chair, replaced the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s chair Rita Makarau who ditched the job under unclear circumstances as well as scrapping anti-business legislation.
Mnangagwa has also removed traffic police officers from the country’s roads and further made overtures towards former rivals with the most visible being the medical charges pledged on behalf of government towards the now late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Lately, he has also signed the Africa charter.
Machisa felt it was important to give credit where it was due.
“The most important part that we are applauding is anything that is very legal, anything that is democratic, and if there is any signing towards freedom, free, fair elections in Zimbabwe as done by President Mnangagwa.
“The steps that are being taken are quite impressing and we hope the people of Zimbabwe will realise that things that are right should be applauded, things that are wrong should not be applauded.
“At this moment, the reason why we are addressing you is to make a recognition and an acknowledgement that the President signed the African charter,” he said.
Mnangagwa is at pains to camouflage his controversial take-over as the country’s leader with his government vehemently denying this was through a coup.
His current steps towards restoring legitimacy, although scorned by some, have also received admirers from across the world.