HEROES DAY 2021 STATEMENT
Today, the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) joins the rest of the nation in commemorating National Heroes’ Day. This day is celebrated annually on the second Monday of August, to remember the brave people who died during the struggle for independence.
These heroes and heroines fought against colonialism, imperialism to gain democracy, self-rule, and equality. The Declaration of Rights in the Constitution is a testament to the gains of the struggle to ensure equality for all. It is undeniable that we are celebrating National Heroes’ Day at a time when its deep meaning and relevance could not be more significant.
One can argue that three decades later, conflict and violence did not end in the colonial era. Zimbabwe is still recording grave human rights violations which is a huge setback on the gains of the liberation struggle. Gross human rights violations which include unlawful and arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces, torture and arbitrary detention of citizens by security forces, imprisonment of politicians and activists to silence them, unjustified arrests and prosecutions, election violence are amongst other gross human rights violations that continue to take place. More recently, the government has been taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to implement repressive measures under the cover of ‘public health protection.’ Reports by civil society organisations documented human rights abuses such as assaults, torture, and other inhuman and degrading treatment and/punishment, unlawful arrests, and detention. Most of the past violations have not been fully addressed and as a result, there has been no justice for victims, perpetrators have not been held accountable, there has been no national healing and no measures have been put in place to guarantee non-recurrence of violations.
The continued human rights violations suffered by Zimbabweans after the attainment of independence are indicative of the lack of a shared vision between the Government of Zimbabwe on one hand and the general populace on the other. Some have even accused the government of having a ‘black skin, white mask’ as it seems that most of the citizenry are still under the shackles of socio-economic oppression, and basic freedoms and rights are not being enjoyed and are being violated.
There is a gap that must be filled to bring the country closer to the ideals of the liberation struggle such as democracy and equality. The NTJWG, therefore, calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to retrace the vision of the liberation heroes and heroines and restore them. This can be done through respect for human rights and guaranteeing the non-recurrence of human rights violations. A commitment should also be made to create space in which dialogue can be used to resolve disputes.