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Keynote address by the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, the Rt. Hon.
Morgan Tsvangirai on the occasion of the United Nations' International
Human Rights day
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
December 11, 2011
It is my singular
honour and privilege to be part of this great day; the UN International
Human Rights day where we celebrate the basic rights of people to
pursue and live their dreams.
I want to say
from the outset that we are celebrating this day at a time when
human rights in this country remain under siege despite the consummation
of the inclusive
Government in February 2009.
While we have
fared well as a Government in improving basic social services especially
health and education, ordinary citizens continue to be harassed
and intimidated because some key State institutions have refused
to adapt to the new political dispensation of inclusivity, peace
of assembly, speech, association and movement remain under attack
from the remnant edifices of repression.
civic society, human rights defenders and political movements such
as the MDC are under attack.
We have all
braved incessant attacks, harassment and intimidation.
We are survivors
of brutality, hate speech and a curtailed public media given to
abetting conflict, hate and division in our society.
We all have
graves and orphans in our villages and in our homes as a result
of political violence and a culture of impunity spawned by our poisoned
an average of over 20 human rights violations have been recorded
daily and this means we are still far away from experiencing the
peace and the freedoms for which a brutal liberation struggle was
waged by the brave sons and daughters of this land.
The fact that
Human Rights day is commemorated the world over on the same day
means human rights are universal and that all human beings deserve
the same standards and the same respect regardless of their location
on the world map.
One of the greatest
scourges of our society has been political violence and no regional
or world summit can bring peace in this land unless there is sincerity
by the national leadership to create a peaceful and tolerant society.
we held an all-party indaba in our quest to end this national curse
and as long as all players are sincere, political violence will
be a thing of the past.
The onus is
now on us to make sure that the message of non-violence cascades
to the lowermost structures; the branches and the cells to enable
the people to live in peace regardless of political, religious or
We owe it not
only to ourselves, but to future generations to create an atmosphere
of hope, peace, stability, prosperity, tolerance and development.
Peace begins with all of us.
The theme for
this year's commemorations, 'Human Rights Defenders
who act to end discrimination', is a wake-up call to all of
us to stand in defence of the people's universal rights. Universal
rights are universal standards that do not discriminate on grounds
of tribe, race, religion, creed or political affiliation.
Indeed, I want
to use today's occasion to thank the small band of committed
Zimbabweans who have spent invaluable time and effort in defending
human rights in this country.
society activists, journalists and other care givers and NGOs have
stood tall and firm and at great risk, to defend the people's
basic rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe.
We salute you!
Government is not the most perfect of arrangements, but we all recognise
that respect for human rights is key to national prosperity and
As a Government,
we have instituted the Human Rights Commission as recognition of
the importance we place on human rights in our society.
This is because
human rights are the key to open the dark and dour door of abundant
are the main ingredient in the national recipe for peace and stability.
human rights will lead to a peaceful nation of a happy people that
are ready to make a contribution on national issues of prosperity
The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has been intensely monitored
by national human rights bodies. The general patterns of these reports
since 2000 indicate a systematic and escalating violations of human
There are assaults
on the media, political opposition, civil society activists and
human rights defenders.
Two years into
the inclusive Government, it is apt to analyze whether the same
Government and its supporting institutions like Parliament
and the Human Rights Commission have made significant progress in
the protection of human rights and facilitating transitional justice.
This is even
more important given that since the Kenya and Zimbabwe coalitions,
African regional organizations have attempted to use the same method
to quell political instability and violence in Madagascar and Guinea.
In this regard,
it is also pertinent to examine the role that national institutions
have played to ensure that law and policy enhance effective functionality
of those institutions that are mandated to advance human rights
Human Rights Commission was sworn in on Wednesday 31st March 2010.
being a politically negotiated creature whose commissioners were
appointed in a partisan manner even though Parliament was involved,
the Commission remains largely compromised and it must earn the
people's confidence by serving the people in an impartial
and honest manner.
For all the
imperfections in the Human
Rights Bill, what I find revulsive is the clause that stops
the Commission from investigating or taking any other action in
relation to human rights violations which occurred before 13 February
2009. This is absurd and unacceptable.
This means that
as a country, we are taking an ill-informed decision to ignore heinous
crimes against the people of this country, starting with the crimes
committed by the colonial regime.
This means we
are saying the perpetrators of the State-sanctioned violence known
as Gukurahundi in the Midlands and Matabelaland provinces in the
early 1980s must go scot free.
This means we
must pretend that Operation
Murambatsvina never happened and that all those who killed,
maimed and raped innocent citizens in acts of political violence
must escape justice.
These are the
hard questions that we must ourselves.
As a nation,
we cannot afford to ignore such gross human rights violations without
risking the same thing happening again if there is no sanction or
of justice is not served to silence the cries of the victims.
elections have been bloody and vicious.
As we go towards
the next election, I appeal to all of you to be peaceful and tolerant
to divergent views.
We have a responsibility
to create a peaceful society where people's rights are respected
I urge all national institutions, especially the police and the
army, to play their role in defending rather than assaulting people's
basic rights and freedoms.
Once we do that,
we will be able to create a Zimbabwe that we will all be proud of.
Yes, peace and
tolerance begins with every one of you.
I thank you.
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