Statement on International Human Rights Day

Statement on International Human Rights day
Rest in Peace Human Rights in Zimbabwe and in the World

Today, December 10, 2023, we join the rest of the world in commemorating the International Human Rights Day, a day that celebrates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. The UDHR is a landmark document that proclaims the inherent dignity and equal rights of all human beings, regardless of their race, gender, religion, nationality, or any other status.

This year’s day is celebrated under the theme “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All”. The theme reflects the vision of a world where everyone can enjoy dignity, freedom and justice in all aspects of their lives.

As we reflect on the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, our nation, our continent and indeed, our world is at crossroads. Over the past 75 years, the UDHR has suffered the worst at the hands of its own signatories, the governments that have either failed in their obligations to fulfil, protect and promote human rights, or have blatantly become perpetrators of human rights violations.

Zimbabwe today is at crossroads. 43 years after independence from colonial rule, the black government that carried so much hope of promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law has failed to uphold these ideals. Instead, the black government has kept the colonial system’s infrastructure of violence intact and further continues to deploy it against the fellow black people of Zimbabwe, marking a spectacular failure of the liberation project. Today, the International Human Rights Day finds Zimbabwe at sea. Democracy has been dead for a while as confirmed by a series of failed elections including the ongoing erosion of voters’ rights through recalls of Members of Parliament.

Elections in Zimbabwe have failed to deliver through the ballot, the full expression of the will of the people as envisaged by Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles specifically section 3 (2) (f) which demands respect for the people of Zimbabwe from whom the authority to govern is derived.

The Parliament of Zimbabwe, established by Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe with legislative authority that section 117 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that is derived from the people, has suffered constant attack with impunity by politicians who swore to protect the Constitution but are now at the forefront of eroding the rights of the voters.

The judiciary, established by Chapter 8 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, whose judicial authority derives from the people of Zimbabwe, has itself become a tool in the hands of the politicians deployed for the decimation of the rights of the same people it is established to protect. Constitution Amendment Bill Number 2 which amended the procedure for the amendment of judges and extended the tenure of the Chief Justice, as well as recent politically motivated judicial pronouncements, have severely damaged the people’s confidence in the judiciary.

The deliberate undermining and weakening of the Chapter 12 institutions has had an adverse effect on the state of human rights in Zimbabwe.

The collapse of the critical arms of government and the weakening of institutions that are supposed to entrench a culture of human rights have seen an increase in serious violation of human rights. Recently, Zimbabwe has witnessed an increase in the cases of abductions, enforced disappearances and politically motivated violence including assassination of opposition activists and imprisonment of dissenting voices.

With increasing corruption involving political and business elites, the government is failing to meet its obligations in realising socio-economic rights of the people. The 2022 Vulnerability Assessment Report found that over 3 million Zimbabweans are food insecure, while the 2023 Global Hunger Index found Zimbabwe’s hunger situation to be ‘serious’. Meanwhile, the business and political elites are on a resource looting and land grab spree as we have documented and exposed over the years.

This situation, which this year’s International Human Rights Day finds us in, is evidence that in our country, the country in which over 50 000 people died to liberate, human rights are dead and buried.

The situation is not any better on the continent and in the world. Despite being signatories to the UDHR, most African governments have failed to live up to the dictates of the declaration and failing to respect their own Constitutions including the continent’s own African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The result of this is political instability across the continent leading to the displacement of over 40 million Africans. An estimated 149 million Africans are facing acute food insecurity, of which 82% of these are in conflict affected countries making this a man-made crisis.

At a global level, the world is on fire. It has become clear that a world based on the principle of might is right is not sustainable. We superintend a situation of negative peace, then we get surprised when war breaks out. The war in Ukraine and the ongoing genocide in Gaza are evidence of leadership failure by the global leaders from whom the people expect so much.

As we commemorate 75 years of the UDHR, we see that human rights in the world are dead too, courtesy of those with the greatest legal and moral obligations.

There is need to reimagine multilateralism and redesign the UN security and peacebuilding system, to create a more effective global system of collective security, a global order that is based on the principle of equity, and the need to redress historical wrongs.

At the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, we are at crossroads and fundamental change is due. We are at a time when the people across nations, regions and the globe must organise against the status quo and reclaim the promises of the UDHR.

Over the past 31 years, ZimRights has provided accompaniment to many communities under siege. In a few days we will be launching a documentary that tells the story of the Ngezi community in Mashonaland Central that is fighting to defend their communal space that is on the verge of being grabbed by the political and business elites.  We have supported minority groups like the Batonga in Mola to claim their socio-economic rights in the face of a development agenda that pays no attention to minority rights. At regional level, we have built solidarity networks with communities that are fighting injustice and reclaiming their voices. We are inspired by stories of women on farms in Stellenbosch, in South Africa that challenging their marginalisation and stepping forward to claim for themselves a life of dignity. In the week ahead of the International Human Rights Day, we participated in the Shift the Power Global Summit held in Bogota and connected with a rising current of discontent with existing power configuration in the development aid sector. In the next few days, we will join the global human rights community in calling on our leaders to uphold the UDHR.

We are, on one end confronted with monumental failure of leadership to uphold the values and ideals of the UDHR. But we are also seeing communities rising and claiming the power. We do not despair.

As we commemorate this year’s International Human Rights Day, acknowledging the death of human rights at different levels of our society, we call upon our leaders in Zimbabwe, in Africa and the world to step back and reflect on their role in creating the human rights situation we are faced with. We call on all leaders to embrace the call for dialogue regarding the tragic human rights situation and allow communities from now onwards to lead the agenda on human rights.

Through the People’s Human Rights Manifesto, we are encouraging leaders in Zimbabwe to enter a new commitment to serve differently. The Manifesto identifies 10 key human rights asks that communities expect from their leaders. Addressing these keys asks will see a significant shift in the human rights situation.

Today, on this 75th anniversary of UDHR, we stand in solidarity with all communities facing different injustices around the world, knowing that through the human rights values espoused by the UNHR, we are connected and stronger together.

Issued by the ZimRights Information Department