Rights groups must walk the talk

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HARARE – If people had a choice between living a long life and living life to the full, many would prefer a life lived to the full.

Global targets and efforts to eradicate poverty and misery continue to be missed century after century.

This has raised scepticism among the poor whose only inheritance is the earth and who were created in abundance and whose problems are addressed by those who have everything they need.

As various human rights groups continue to mushroom in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular, various questions continue to be asked on their relevance and commitment to deal with the issue of human rights other than cosmetic commemorations and largely futile urban biased advocacy and rabid attention-seeking antics.

Most of these rights organisations are artificially based and their real motives do not go beyond seeking fortune for their staff while failing to aid processes that will deal directly with rights abuses and denials. 

If rights groups do not start by tackling issues like income, they risk being irrelevant as they waste time in demanding a just and fair society under conditions they know will never improve.

The African Union has set October 21 to commemorate Africa Human Rights Day; there should be less talk and more action. African leaders should be reminded of their solemn declaration to respect, promote and protect human rights on the continent.

Human beings should not be subjected to alienating conditions of life resulting from lack of basic needs such as shelter, food, security and protection, health among other issues.

State and non-state actors like the rights groups should work tirelessly by implementing practical strategies that should make sure basic needs are made available and that people live full and meaningful lives.

This is in line with Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa is the disturbing shift and excessive emphasis on social and political rights as opposed to economic rights which will guarantee that basic needs are met.

Most people are told that if they have political rights, they can then chart the way forward. Such moves have been largely discredited as it was proved that some dictatorial states scored much higher than democracies in the Human Development Index.

We should not condone the absence of democracy but if the emphasis on liberal democracy in Africa has led to an increase in the levels of social and economic deprivation, then there is something fundamentally flawed in such an orientation.

The only guarantee for rights in Africa is a deliberate move to make basic needs available and accessible to the masses.

As human rights groups were busy attacking each other for not observing the Africa Human Rights Day and casting doubts over the commitment of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to human rights issues, some children in Lupane were reported on national television to be dropping out of school because of hunger.

It was such a sorry sight to see the children “for whom the future belongs” looking miserable and unable to travel long distances to school because of lack of food.

Their right to a dignified life and education has been thrown into jeopardy. We need practical poverty alleviation strategies.

On a refreshing note, inputs for the forthcoming agricultural season were being distributed to make sure that hunger is averted if the rains do come.

The only way to observe and commemorate the Africa Human Rights Day is to show commitment by being action oriented rather than to chant slogans every year after a good meal in the capital cities.

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