18 April 2021 marks 41 years since Zimbabwe gained independence from colonial rule to majority rule. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of the country in marking this important day. Sadly, Zimbabweans have little to celebrate on this day given the deplorable standard of living of citizens, persistent human rights abuses and the departure from constitutional practices in the country.
The standard of living for citizens remains severely inadequate due to the worsening economic situation. Meanwhile, the leaders of what once was the breadbasket of Southern Africa seem indifferent and devoid of the will to improve the circumstances of the people of Zimbabwe. This is further compounded by the rising political tensions aggravated by intolerance for opposition parties through calculated arrests, assaults and torture of opposition party supporters. Suffice to say, the independence ideals of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by Chapter 4 of our Constitution have systematically been eroded in pursuit of consolidation of power.
This year’s Independence Day also comes at a time when the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic. It is sad to note that the country’s health care systems and attending personnel are in a dire state. The lack of infrastructure, equipment and the incapacitation of health professionals have turned a once world-renowned health care sector into a predatory system that can be best described as a slow genocide. Many Zimbabweans have been condemned to premature deaths as our hospitals have become potentially fatal.
The Constitution demands recognition and respect for the liberation struggle. However, the second republic, in much the same fashion as the first republic, has regressed in terms of promoting the gains of the liberation struggle. The Forum believes that true independence will only be attained when the rights of all people in Zimbabwe are fully respected and protected
As the nation reflects on 41 years of independence, the Forum calls on the State to:
· Fully implement and abide by the tenants of democracy as articulated in our Constitution including the protection of the sanctity of the Constitution from unwarranted amendments;
· Institute genuine reforms to address the economic meltdown;
· Be tolerant of divergent views and respect political rights and freedom; and
· Ensure accountability for perpetrators of organised violence and torture against citizens.