Today, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of Africa in commemorating Africa Day. The African Union (AU)’s theme for 2020 – Silencing the guns: Creating a conducive environment for Africa’s development – provides an opportunity to reflect on progress and challenges in attaining peace and development in Africa, including in Zimbabwe.
In May 2013, Heads of States and Governments of the AU signed the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the formation of the African Union. In so doing, the leaders committed to the ideals of the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights, regional solidarity, promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and youth. In 2015, African leaders adopted Agenda 2063, a vision and action plan for Africa born out of a realization of the need to prioritize peace and security, social and economic development, continental and regional integration, and democratic governance. The primary goal is to provide African countries with an environment conducive for development.
The aspirations of the AU align with the founding values and principles of good governance as captured in section 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 (the Constitution). This year’s Africa Day comes days after Zimbabwe commemorated the Constitution’s 7th anniversary on 22 May 2020. In spite of the alignment of values and aspirations in the AU’s framework of principles and in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, many in Zimbabwe are yet to see, experience and live the promise of the Constitution.
The Zimbabwean economy continues to decline against the backdrop of a bad human rights record. As the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, violations of fundamental human freedoms and liberties continue to be recorded. Hundreds of violations have been recorded by the Forum since the start of the COVID-19 national lockdown, including assault, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and attack on journalists. The recent abductions and torture of three opposition political youth leaders which made headlines globally, drew the latest attention to Zimbabwe’s long-held record of human insecurity and vulnerability. This is a record enabled by a State that is unable to protect its citizens – and is in most times, actively involved in the violations both by commission and omission. Zimbabwe is subscribed to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and has a duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights of its peoples as provided in that Charter.
Much have been invested by the Zimbabwean government in painting the country as being under a new dispensation, shaped by a new ethos. Evidence on the ground speak otherwise. Without respect for human rights, sound governance and a culture of constitutionalism, Zimbabwe will remain behind in Africa’s peace and development agenda, slowing down the advancement of its peoples and becoming a liability to African as a whole.
As Zimbabwe and the continent commemorate Africa Day, the Forum takes the opportunity to remind the Government of Zimbabwe of the duty it owes to its citizens to make this day meaningful, as a celebration of our security and prosperity. The primary duty lies upon the government of the people, to deliver the Africa promised in our continental agenda, which agenda is similarly captured in our own Constitution. The Forum further calls on unity of purpose among all in Zimbabwe to ensure that we focus more on things that unite than divide us, as both Zimbabweans and Africans.