STAFF WRITER 6 December 2017
HARARE – The week, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating
Human Rights Day at an opportune time for the nation.
The day is observed on the 10th of this month, being the day the United
Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of
This year, the day kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming
70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a
milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights, which everyone
is inherently entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour,
religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social
origin, property, birth or other status.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has the unique opportunity to shame his
critics by defining himself as a leader who respects human rights, not
just in word but in deed.
While he did not say anything on this emotive matter in his inaugural
speech, by pledging to uphold the Constitution, Mnangagwa has committed
himself to observing human rights since these are also protected by the
Zimbabwe has had a terrible human rights record that has earned it a
pariah status. Mnangagwa’s predecessor was notorious for his oppressive
methods and abhorrence for dissent. Under his rule, freedoms were severely
Robert Mugabe’s government had no respect for democratic reforms. Even
after agreeing to a new Constitution in 2013 that allowed for these, his
regime simply refused to harmonise the various laws to the new charter.
Anything that was seen threatening his hold on power was ruthlessly
crushed. In his party, he would only uphold the Constitution to the extent
it enabled him to achieve his power-retention agenda.
According to human rights activists, Zimbabwe has a long and reprehensible
history of gross human rights violations abetted by a political culture of
“The use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment appears as a
central element of State agents’ treatment of citizens perceived as being
in opposition to the ruling Zanu PF party and those attempting to exercise
their fundamental freedoms, that is the freedom to demonstrate and
petition, freedom of association, assembly and expression,” opined the
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
A lot has been said about Mnangagwa in the past.
He has been accused of being the chief architect behind the Gukurahundi
massacres that resulted in the deaths of more than 20 000 people. Others
say he was behind the violence that killed more than 200 MDC supporters
and officials in the run-up to the 2008 presidential run-off. These are
Mnangagwa should take advantage of his ascendancy to prove his critics
wrong and salvage his legacy.