Respect the African charters, government told

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Vasco Chaya

STAFF WRITER

chayav@dailynews.co.zw

CIVIL Society Organisations have raised concern over the government’s failure to respect continental laws which are meant to improve electoral processes and people’s freedoms, Daily News reports.

The concern came barely a day after the country, together with other African nations, celebrated the Africa Day.

“Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) notes with concern that despite the existing frameworks, Zimbabwe is yet to ratify African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) and there are outstanding issues in terms of malpractices in the political environment in which elections are conducted, deficiencies in electoral laws, and inadequacies in elections administration,” the Zesn chairperson Andrew Makoni said.

“In particular, today the participation of citizens in democratic development and governance of public affairs, including through electoral processes is under threat amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This is because the country is on an indefinite lockdown with restrictions such as maintaining social and physical distancing; limits on numbers of people who can gather; restricted movement of people; and suspension of elections, in place.”

Zesn—the network of a number of civil society organizations (CSOs) — calls on relevant stakeholders, including the government departments and CSOs among others to find ways of ensuring the safe continuation of electoral processes in the country.

“Zesn believes that whereas it is important to protect the health of the people, democratic consolidation should not be forgone. To this end, the Network urges stakeholders to learn from other countries where electoral processes have continued and appropriate what would be feasible in the context of Zimbabwe in compliance with collectively determined preventative measures to avoid the transmission of corona virus,” Makoni said.

In recognition of the importance of democracy, African governments adopted the ACDEG with its article 2 (3) underscores the importance of ‘regular free and fair elections to institutionalize legitimate authority of representative government as well as democratic change of governments’.

ACDEG also seeks to ‘promote best practices in the management of elections for purposes of political stability and good governance’ and to ensure ‘effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in governance of public affairs’.

On the same vein, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the country celebrated Africa Day at a time when there were glaring deficiencies in democracy, and glaring intolerance to political diversity.

“ZLHR remains concerned at the lack of political will by the state actors to fulfil the voluntary commitments made at the continental level as a signatory to a number of AU protocols and human rights instruments. Having accepted to be bound by the AU Constitutive Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol on Women’s Rights to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the government of Zimbabwe must play its part by respecting these treaty obligations to create a democratic society and contribute to ‘Silencing the Guns’ on the continent.

“ZLHR remains concerned at the use of excessive force against unarmed civilians by security sector players, the continued perpetration with impunity of gross violations of civil and political rights.  Equally disturbing is the lack of prioritisation and provision of adequate resources to ensure the progressive realisation of social and economic rights,” reads part of the statement from ZLHR.

ZLHR is also concerned that government is lagging behind in ratifying; domesticating and implementing some crucial instruments which could help prevent conflict in the country.

“For Zimbabwe, since signing the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance on March 21 in 2018, government has not ensured that such a critical instrument becomes binding and is incorporated to become part of domestic law so as to promote democracy, good governance practice and a robust electoral process. The government has signed and shelved domestication of other critical instruments including the Protocol to Establish the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, which seeks to enhance the protection of human rights on the continent among other continental and international protocols.”

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum weighed in, saying 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 May 22. 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,” reads part of the statement from Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

“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 and opposition political activists. 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 people as provided in that charter.”

The government defended itself in a statement, saying they are committed to its obligation to protect human rights in the country despite race, gender or political affiliation.

“Whilst the relevant agencies of the state are fully seized with the matter and are already investigating all aspects of the allegations made by the three ladies in question (MDC youth leaders)- including the circumstances surrounding the unauthorised staging of a demonstration during a national lockdown, in deliberate violations SI177 of 2020.it is most disconcerting to note that some sections of the media and even some within the diplomatic community appear to have already concluded that the Zimbabwean Government was responsible for the alleged abusers,” reads the statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo.

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