Mnangagwa, Mugabe, birds of a feather on rights abuses – top lawyer

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

PROMINENT rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa says the current regime led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not moved an inch towards respecting human rights, just like the previous administration.

Mtetwa said rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly and association were being curtailed by state security agents in Zimbabwe, just the same way former president Robert Mugabe’s regime did it.

The Harare lawyer was speaking at a Friday Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum organised the event in Harare.

The event theme was, The Role of Government in safeguarding Human Rights: What can the State do to guarantee the safety of its citizens?

Mtetwa said even court orders were not being respected by the Mnangagwa led regime.

“We have seen how the exercise of rights, for instance freedom of movement have been severally curtailed.

“If citizens want to enjoy their rights to protests, we know that every road into the city centre will be cordoned off by police, by army personnel.

“We know that those who do so are not doing it on their own. They are doing it because the State is allowing it.

“And what is government response to that? Government is not sitting down to listen to the grievances. Instead, it is behaving exactly the same as the first republic, basically disrespecting the constitution…”

Mtetwa added, “We have seen court orders not being respected in the second republic, we have oversight institutions, like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and when it does make reports, the government does not take those reports seriously.

“When oversight institutions make recommendations, it is the government’s responsibility to look into those reports and take corrective action as recommended.”

Mtetwa also accused police of applying “excessive, disproportionate and lethal” use of force against protesters with teargas, batons and live ammunition.

“We have a brand new constitution, which in my view has been wasted in the last six years. The people of Zimbabwe in March 2013 buried the old Lancaster Constitution which had been mutilated at least 19 times,” she said.

“And the reason for that mutilation was that it was said to be really an imposition from elsewhere.

“So, when the people of Zimbabwe overwhelmingly voted for the new constitution, it was the hope of all human rights defenders that constitutionalism will now be lived, it will be our daily bread and it is the practice by all of us.”

She added, “But we have seen that in practice, even the second republic is not living by that behaviour, we have to be seen that every law that is not inconsistent with the constitution is invalid.

“However, we have seen that in practice, even the second republic is not living by that.

“The government must walk the talk; let us not see the government openly defying the constitution by stopping citizens from enjoying rights that they have under the constitution.”