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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Need to bridge the gap between rhetoric and practice
Rights NGO Forum
2013 has begun
with stark contradictions which highlight the need for a synchronization
of national processes and a creation of bridges between what politicians
say in their lofty offices and what their operatives do on the ground.
Highlights for the month of January include the signing of the political
code of conduct to end politically motivated violence and the apparent
agreement on the draft
constitution. In sharp contrast, the low-light has been the current
clampdown on the
Association of Human Rights (ZimRights) and its implication
on the NGOs operating environment in 2013.
Political party representatives have been busy thrashing out outstanding
issues in the draft constitution. On Thursday the 17th of January,
the principals agreed
on the draft Constitution and the proclamation of dates for
the referendum and elections. According to latest reports available
to us, all things being equal, the draft constitution might be ready
during the last week of January, and more importantly, the draft
will likely limit the presidential tenure to two terms in office
and allow Zimbabweans to have dual citizenship.
AU Summit: Zimbabwe
Civil Society is currently represented at the on-going AU Summit
by the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum, Crisis
Coalition, and Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights. The representatives will be insisting
on the full compliance with the Global
Political Agreement as a pre-requisite to for a free, fair and
credible election. They will speak to issues pertaining to the on-going
violence, harassment of NGOs and the abuse of civil liberties.
peace: Civil society organisations have welcomed the signing
of the political code of conduct on political violence by the country's
major political parties. According to the Press statement
by the Zimbabwe
Peace Project (ZPP), a leading organisation that monitors breaches
of peace at community level as a contribution towards sustainable
peace, the agreement will see political party leaders being held
accountable for their supporters' violent conduct.
The ZPP believes
this is a move in the right direction towards ending the culture
of violence and impunity. However 'It the ZPP's strong
view that the realization of the fundamental human rights and freedoms,
very much depends on the willingness of those in power to enforce
implementation. Unless there is change in the political and democratic
culture in Zimbabwe the culture of violence and impunity will prevail
for a very long time to come'.
We agree with
the ZPP position and it is our view that while the agreement is
a good starting point, this should be accompanied by the demolition
of structures of violence both at community and national levels.
The state security structures should unequivocally dissociate themselves
from political parties and discharge their obligations without favor
fear or prejudice. The political parties should also dissociate
themselves from terror groups and there should be a clear commitment
to investigate and prosecute those who run these terror groups wherever
they exist. As the situation currently stands, political party principals
may sanitize themselves by calling for peace while outsourcing the
commission of violence to terror groups or acquiescing with the
conduct of these groups when they do not take stern measures to
investigate and prosecute.
In the on-going
ZimRights case, Police on Wednesday 23 January formally laid
charges against ZimRights, following allegations of fraud that led
to the arrest of the group's director Okay Machisa and
On 23 January,
the bail hearing for Mr Okay Machisa was postponed to the 24th of
January 2013 on the ground that the judge did not have the record
of the case with her and in general the state was not prepared for
the case. Mr Leo Chamahwinya was similarly remanded in custody until
the 4th of February 2013 as the state says it still needs to carry
further investigations (Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum).
On 24 January
2013, the bail hearing for Mr Okay Machisa was again postponed to
the 25th of January as the record is not yet ready (ibid).
On 18 January
2013, more than 50 civil society organisations had signed a joint
statement of solidarity condemning 'the unashamed intimidatory
and repressive tactics being employed by the state against civil
society organizations and leaders in Zimbabwe' (Crisis in
On 15 January,
similar concerns were raised by the UN Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights who condemned the recent attacks on Human Rights
Defenders in Zimbabwe by stating that 'We are concerned about
the crackdown on non-governmental organisations and dissenting voices
seen as critical of President Robert Mugabe's rule and apparently
politically motivated prosecutions, ahead of the elections which
are expected to take place later this year' (OHCHR Press Release).
In our view,
the parallel charges against ZimRights as an organisation, amount
to throwing a spanner in the works and are calculated to disable
the organisation's operations at such a critical juncture
of the Zimbabwe democratization project. For the past twenty years,
ZimRights has played a very significant role of grassroots sensitization
and awareness raising towards empowering citizens who are able to
demand their human rights.
In light of
this, the Zimbabwe civil society organisations are calling upon
the SADC region and the international community to continue supporting
the people of Zimbabwe in their quest for justice, freedom and democratization.
Visit the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum fact
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