THE political impasse and general deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe requires collective efforts by all stakeholders for a lasting solution according to the African Commission of Human and Peopleâ€™s Rights (ACHPR) that is currently holding its 44th session in Abuja, Nigeria.Â Â
Several commissioners from the ACHPR, Africaâ€™s supreme human rights watch-dog, concurred on the need for a more focused approach to the political and socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe despite objections from Ministry of Foreign Affairs
officials. Zimbabwe featured prominently during discussions around the work-groups on human rights defenders in Africa and freedom of expression and access to information.
â€œWe would be more satisfied to be allowed to take part in what is happening in Zimbabwe. Besides what Sadc is doing, it is important for us to go and see the situation on the ground,â€ noted Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa. She also added that special human rights mechanisms should be allowed to input as stakeholders work to resolve the human rights situation and political stalemate in Zimbabwe.
Commissioners acknowledged the critical roles played by women human rights defenders such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) and also singled out journalists who use their right to freedom of expression in speeding up development and assist the citizenry to take part in a democracy.
Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, added weight to Commissioner Alapini-Gansouâ€™s call for a fact finding mission highlighting the significance of her workgroup saying: â€œFreedom of expression should be part of the mission to Zimbabwe as human rights defenders move hand in hand with this right.â€
The state, led by Nyakotyo, argued that there is no need for a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe or further engagements through the commission or Africa Union as Sadc has made a ruling on the contentious aspects of the political impasse. He said the ruling by the regional body, that Zanu PF and MDC should co-manage the Home Affairs ministry, set the tone for the formation of a government that would resuscitate the economy and improve the human rights situation in the country despite it being rejected by one of the key principals to the agreement, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The opposition leader expressed shock and disappointment at the decision reached by Sadc that seemed to ignore the need to share power equitably between Mugabe and himself. Mugabe already has control of the Defence ministry and the opposition is advocating for control of the police as a way to equitably share security organs.
Meanwhile, civic society organisations attending the ACHPR meeting expressed pessimism on the political agreement and emphasised calls for a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe and the necessity of broader engagement of more stakeholders in the talks.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) made interventions during discussions and echoed similar sentiments on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
â€œThe signing of the Global Agreement on September 15 2008 brought optimism of an end to political intolerance and human rights violations. However, this optimism has since been shattered by the on-going impasse among the parties to these agreements,â€ read part of a statement by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. â€œThe shape of the media has remained in a deplorable state with state media churning out hate speech in both the electronic and print media.â€
ZLHR expressed, in its statement, â€œgrave concern at the fact that the authorities in Zimbabwe continue to exercise repressive behaviour and continue to take measures which render the situation on human rights defenders untenable and which serve to further escalate the current political crisis.â€ Â
By Hilton Zvidzayi