BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/SHARON BUWERIMWE
THE European Union (EU) has urged Zimbabwe to earnestly look into the issue of enforced disappearances and bring the culprits to book.
Speaking to NewsDay after the fourth EU-Zimbabwe Dialogue meeting in Harare on Tuesday, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen said: “Zimbabwe, unfortunately, has a history of forced disappearances. We still have reports of disappearances of people. We encouraged government to take these allegations seriously and transparently look into them. We want Zimbabwe to report on its findings and bring the culprits to justice. It needs to be addressed seriously so that the facts behind all the alleged cases are brought to daylight.
“We have differences of opinion on how a number of human rights issues are addressed. We hope that Zimbabwe would make more progress on those matters.”
Olkkonen’s concerns on enforced disappearances came as Citizens Coalition for Change member Moreblessing Ali disappeared on May 24 after she was reportedly bundled into a car by a Zanu-PF mob in Chitungwiza.
Police, however, released a statement saying Ali’s disappearance had nothing to do with politics, but was a personal matter between her and her former boyfriend, Pius Jamba.
Olkkonen said the country was also failing to implement electoral reforms recommended by the EU election observer mission after the 2018 elections.
“It’s a complicated picture, there are some steps forward and areas where we would want to see much progress. For example, on the electoral agenda we see that there are steps taken, but we are also concerned that time ahead of next year’s elections is very short. It depends on whether there will be time to implement some of the recommendations of the electoral observer missions,” he said.
The EU was still monitoring progress of its recommendations made in 2018 and it believes “most of the recommendations where progress has not been made are hinged on the amendments of the Electoral Act”.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministry secretary James Manzou who co-chaired the meeting said: “Zimbabwe doesn’t have any human rights violations. Of course, they would cite certain issues. Yes, there are areas where we had different views. Even in your family you have different views, but you sit down and discuss them. So we used this opportunity to outline the reforms that we are undertaking such as media and electoral reforms. This was an opportunity to tell them that this is what we are doing.”
Manzou pointed out that the issue of EU sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe remains a thorn in the flesh as it has resulted in an arms embargo on the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
“Progress in removing some sanctions is acknowledged, but when investors google and find out that Zimbabwe is under sanctions, they automatically change their minds. Sanctions must be removed,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a documentation project launch yesterday by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in Harare, Olkkonen criticised electoral violence, saying warning signs were already there ahead of next year’s elections.
“With the increasingly complex and tense political situation as we approach elections next year, we are already seeing some warning signs that could indicate the deterioration of the human rights situation,” he said.
On lack of national identity documents, Olkkonen said that would disenfranchise potential voters and infringe on their rights.
“As such, the undocumented has the major impact on one’s life and unfortunately this often passes from one generation to another,” he added.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said: “The main constraints that are impeding effective implementation of the ZHRC mandate are lack of sufficient resources, both human and financial, which if adequate, would propel the commission’s work to greater heights.”
Mugwadi further noted that the Paris principles for the National Human Rights Institutions stipulate that rights commissions should have enough resources of which 70% must be from government, while 30% should be from resource mobilisation.