BY MOSES MATENGA/VANESSA GONYE/MIRIAM MANGWAYA
HUMAN rights groups yesterday said Zimbabwe witnessed severe increased violations of people’s rights this year due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown and pleaded with government to end the use of State agents against the people.
In statements to commemorate the International Human Rights Day yesterday, activists said there was need for government to end torture, arbitrary arrests and abductions of citizens.
This year’s commemorations were held under the theme Recover Better — Stand Up for Human Rights.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said State actors were used to violate basic rights in Zimbabwe.
“Sadly, in Zimbabwe, State actors have over the past year abused and exploited enforcement of regulations enacted to curtail human mobility and interaction thereby providing government with a smokescreen to escalate a systematic assault on human rights defenders and ordinary citizens and restricting their fundamental rights and freedoms in a bid to consolidate executive power,” the ZLHR statement said.
They said human rights violations in Zimbabwe had been followed keenly by regional and international blocs, with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) issuing Resolution 443 on the human rights situation in the country, which condemned the deteriorating situation and implored government to stop curtailing freedoms of expression and assembly.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) weighed in saying: “The advent of the lockdown in Zimbabwe saw citizens being subjected to human rights violations by State security agents deployed to enforce lockdown regulations.
“Frontline personnel such as healthcare professionals operated with minimum or no access to personal protective equipment, leaving them exposed to COVID-19.”
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said: “In Zimbabwe, human rights violations in the form of abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests, as well as intimidation of journalists for exposing corruption, have been prevalent.”
Some of this year’s victims of government’s human rights abuses include journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was arrested on spurious charges, trainee journalist Tawanda Muchehiwa, and MDC Alliance MP Joanah Mamombe (Harare West), Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova who were allegedly abducted and tortured by State agents and tortured.
The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) also said human rights violations were witnessed in Zimbabwe this year after armed forces were unleashed onto the streets and harassed people while forcing vendors out of business.
“For vendors and informal traders, the advent of the lockdown also brought the pain of destruction of marketplaces and loss of wares through ‘clean-up’ operations by local authorities countrywide,” Viset executive director Samuel Wadzai said.
ZimRights said COVID-19 impacted on the economic rights of youths as enshrined in section 20 of the Constitution which guarantees access to education, the right to participate, and protection from harm and exploitation.
“The day finds Zimbabwe suffering a multitude of crises. Since the advent of COVID-19 in March 2020, Zimbabwe’s economic, political, social and cultural states have continued to deteriorate. The civic and democratic spaces continue to shrink, and human rights violations, impunity, constitutional violations and discrimination on the basis of political affiliation have continued to increase.”
ZimRights said corruption was also on the increase with senior government officials fingered in the abuse of COVID-19 funds at the expense of the poor
Workers’ rights were also infringed with nurses having been beaten up for demonstrating and teachers harassed.
Follow us on Twitter