Zimbabwe urged to allow demonstrations because they are a “release valve”


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Although the majority of my requests for meetings and visits to places of interest to my mandate were facilitated, I regret that my requests to meet with the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare; the Minister of Finance and Economic Development;  and the Mayor of Harare could not be accommodated despite the length of my ten-day visit.

In addition, outside Harare, I also met local authorities such as the Minister of State of Bulawayo, the Mayor of Bulawayo, the Minister of State of Manicaland and the Mayor of Mutare as well as with relevant law enforcement authorities and development programme officers in both provinces.

I will now present some of the preliminary findings and recommendations in the spirit of holding a constructive dialogue and based on information received before and throughout my visit. I will elaborate on these preliminary findings in a more detailed manner in a report that will be presented at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020. These preliminary findings neither reflect all the issues presented to me, nor all the initiatives undertaken by the Government of the Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has ratified a number of international and regional human rights instruments and committed itself to observe them. I would like to encourage it to ratify the remaining key international human rights treaties such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the optional protocols to which it is not yet a State party, in particular those of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, during the Universal Periodic Review in 2016, Zimbabwe accepted recommendations pertaining to the freedoms I am mandated to monitor.  My assessment is guided by these principles.

Democratic transition

Zimbabwe has gone through different political transitions in the course of its recent history since independence in 1980. More recently, as a result of a National Unity Government, a Constitution was adopted in 2013 which includes an expansive bill of rights with specific provisions promoting and protecting the rights on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

With the new constitutional framework that includes the establishment of a number of independent institutions, the recent change of leadership, prospects of legal and judicial reform, effective economic recovery measures and changes in the governance structures, arose as a natural expectation for many Zimbabweans who are desperately awaiting to improve the quality of their lives.

I have repeatedly heard from different segments of society that the “new dispensation” brings the hope of more freedoms. The Government has committed to have a more open and democratic space, that enables a multi-party democratic political system. They have also promised to erect a transparent, just, accountable and responsive way of governance based on the rule of law, respecting the principles of separation of powers.

The transition has also brought along reassurances of strategic reengagement with representatives of the international community as well as with financial institutions. The Government has said it will take a strong stance in relation to the fight against corruption and impunity and has recommitted  to its obligations contained in regional and international human rights instruments.

Albeit the common belief that a transformation will come, I believe that the long-awaited hopes are fading. The population is now questioning the Government’s capacity to bring about such changes. They feel they have not experienced concrete and tangible results. On the contrary, I have perceived from my different meetings around the country, that there is a serious deterioration of the political, economic and social environment since August 2018 resulting in fear, frustration and anxiety among a large number of Zimbabweans.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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