The report is made to the UN Human Rights Council, with scrutiny coming from fellow UN members. Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa will, tomorrow, deliver to the UN, Zimbabwe’s human rights scorecard.
A reading of the report, however, shows that there is a clear attempt to gloss over and subvert the truth of the situation over the last four years, and a self-righteous allocation of blame.
This allocation of blame, for an otherwise poor human rights record, on sanctions, is the sine qua non of the report that Chinamasa is in Geneva to sell. This is clearly discernible from the fact that it is part of the starting premise in the government’s report, and is part of its conclusion, as well as a major element of the challenges that the state cites for non-compliance and fulfilment of some rights.
Several government apologists have, over the weeks, abused the opinion pages of public newspapers, strongly advancing this half-baked argument, which fails to explain how the “sanctions” have led to sustained assaults on civil and political rights, while also failing to engage the issues around lack of transparency and accountability in the administration and exploitation of the country’s vast mineral wealth.
One of the cardinal rules to progress is that you have to face the hard facts and then develop a plan for dealing with them. The harsh reality is that there is wanton disrespect for human rights in Zimbabwe, and unfortunately a lot of these violations are state-sponsored.
The bigger tragedy is that when opportunities like the UPR come up, the government turns a blind eye to the facts, choosing instead to grandstand and point accusing fingers at everyone but themselves. Where there is no honest reflection, and acknowledgement of the shortcomings, whatever recommendations are posited will not work, as they will be based on a foundation of lies.
One of the things that the government report cites is the indigenisation drive, as a key policy and strategy seeking to “Correct the colonial imbalances by facilitating access to, and ownership of means of production by the indigenous Zimbabweans”.
It is difficult to argue against the notion of indigenisation and empowerment, as a policy, when the sponsors are genuine. In our case however, the reality is that this noble agenda is driven by a money-hungry elite, whose motivation is less the attainment of economic empowerment for “the people”, but more to further fatten the bustling pockets of the fat cats in government and their praise singers.
The agendas are selfish, poorly thought out, and in themselves, are spanners in the works towards progressive realisation of socio-economic rights for the people of Zimbabwe, in their current construct.
The real human rights challenges in Zimbabwe are known to its citizens, and those who have been following the country’s developments over the last decade or so. If as the report states, Zimbabwe is “desirous of promoting and upholding human rights for all”, here is what the state must do:
Respect civil liberties — Allow people to assemble, interact, associate and speak freely.
Grant us our rights to water, power, education and health.
Dismantle the infrastructures of violence, including vigilante groups like Chipangano, that have been at the centre of torture, summary killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, cohesion and other forms of politically motivated human rights infractions.
Stop abusing our security sector, and develop them into a non-partisan professional security sector that doesn’t meddle in the political affairs of civilians, and is not used, as the blunt instrument of choice, in dealing physically with perceived enemies of the establishment.
Develop genuine empowerment policies that are not aimed at expanding the patronage base of those who occupy the state, or which only serve small political and economic elite, as this does nothing for the progressive realisation of socio-economic and cultural rights.
Remove the “sanctions” that the state has placed on the people, which have manifested themselves in the shrinking of democratic space, and the wanton disrespect of human rights (including rights to title and property).
Repeal and amend laws that give life to these “sanctions” on our people like Posa, Aippa and the Criminal Law Codification Act.
Remove the “economic embargoes” that corruption, cronyism, primitive looting, government largesse and political patronage have placed on our people’s access to the economy and a more prosperous life.
The government needs to stop lying to the world, its people and itself, because perpetuation of these lies is tantamount to building a house on sand – it will not stand, and will sooner rather than later be washed away.
BY MAcDONALD LEWANIKA