Outpouring of Global Solidarity with the People of Zimbabwe at the 77th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania
Human rights defenders across the continent have vowed to close the ranks and stand with the people of Zimbabwe in defense of human rights. This was a clear message at the Zimbabwe Solidarity Dinner convened by Zimbabwe Human rights Association (ZimRights), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Zimbabwe Human rights NGO Forum in Arusha, on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Arusha Tanzania.
Civil society activists from Zimbabwe organized the dinner to appraise the human rights community gathered in Arusha, of the developments in Zimbabwe following the signing of the Patriotic Act Law, the scandalous 2023 elections, the arrest of local election observers, the increased arrests of human rights lawyers and the recall of Members of Parliament, all a threat to civic space and democratic participation in Zimbabwe.
In his opening remarks at the dinner, ZimRights National Director Dzikamai Bere emphasized that the people of Zimbabwe do not take the regional and global solidarity for granted.
“At a time when the world is on fire, our situation could fade into insignificance, but we are grateful that the human rights community continues to acknowledge that we do not have to choose when it comes to human rights. We have the obligation to address the Zimbabwean situation so that it also does not become the worst-case scenario that we are all afraid of.”
Speaking at the same event, Chiedza Mlingwa, of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, highlighted how the solidarity call was meant to ensure that the Zimbabwean situation is not treated as an isolated question but as a regional question, a continental question and ultimately as an international question.
“You can all help to do this by standing in solidarity with us and calling upon the African Commission to urgently call upon the Government of Zimbabwe uphold its human rights obligations.”
Advocate Wilbert Mandinde then gave a situation report, outlining the impact of the Patriotic Act, the 2023 electoral heist and the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders.
Zimbabwe Europe Network (ZEN) coordinator, Hugo Knoppert also shared his solidarity message where he encouraged all African countries to fully support calls to the wider international community, including the EU and the ACHPR, to continue to stand with Zimbabwean civil society, and insist on the implementation of the recommendations of the SADC and EU Election Observation Mission reports. “In its various engagements, international actors must continue to address their concerns around the Patriot Act and PVO Bill and insist on the rights and freedoms of Zimbabwean civil society and Zimbabweans in general and as (ZEN), we will try to support you in our own little way and hope we can continue to be a friend and ally for you,” he said.
Different human rights groups delivered solidarity messages, encouraging the people of Zimbabwe to remain resolute. Among the speakers included President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Alice Mogwe, CEO of the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU), Donald Deya, Director of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) Onesmo Olengurumwa, Director of Pan African Defenders Network Joseph Bikanda, Coordinator of the Zimbabwe Europe Network (ZEN), Hugo Knoppert and Southern Defenders represented by Arnold Tsunga.
Director of Pan African Defenders Network Joseph Bikanda, expressed solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and urged all African countries to support each other, “civil society organizations should learn from the founding fathers of the AU on the importance of giving solidarity to each other.’’
Also sharing a message of solidarity to Zimbabwe one of the biggest global human rights movement The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) President, Alice Mogwe expressed a solidarity message with the people of Zimbabwe, calling on the government of Zimbabwe to repeal the Patriotic Act, and free political prisoners among other demands.
Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) CEO Donald Deya also weighed in, “solidarity is an assurance that we are in this fight together,” as he expressed his solidarity message to all CSOs during the session.
The key message from the human rights community were that all African (CSOs) should work in solidarity with Zimbabwe and take collective action as a way of renewing the march towards the great trinity of liberty, political freedoms, and human rights.
As the meeting ended, the CSOs agreed on a number of action points as presented by Tinomuda Shoko of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Key among them was the call to return to the same solidarity that drove the liberation struggle in which our forebearers stood with each other.
In the vote of thanks made by the Vice Chairperson of ZimRights, Themba Chiveya, he thanked the human rights community for remaining resolute. “We have learnt in this solidarity meeting that our conflicts are an expression of negative peace and if not attended to will worsen.” He said, “We have learnt that Charachimwe hachitswanyi inda – one thumb cannot crush a lice.”
The dinner was attended by human rights groups from all over the continent and the world at large, signifying the recognition given to the situation in Zimbabwe by the human rights community. In closing the meeting, ZimRights National Director emphasized that human rights work is a struggle.
“The human rights struggle is a liberation struggle meant to fulfil the promise of the liberation. The fact that we choose to wage it without violence does not make it less important. It is the same struggle that our forebears waged against colonialism. Therefore, we must remain resolute,” Bere urged the defenders.