ZimRights Condemns the Language of Hate and Threats of Violence by the ZANU PF Acting Spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) expresses its shock and concern at the increasing language of hate coming mainly from ZANU PF ahead of the opposition-led July 31 protests. Addressing journalists at the ZANU PF Headquarters on 27 July 2020, the acting ZANU PF spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa labelled the opposition MDC Alliance a ‘terrorist organization’, United States Ambassador ‘a thug’ and civil society ‘evil society’. Mr. Chinamasa went on to incite violence asking ZANU PF supporters to attack any people who will protest against corruption on July 31.
These comments, coming from senior leadership of a governing party must shock the conscience of all people who value peace and understand the sacred values of an open democratic society. Zimbabwe is founded upon the values and principles of rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms as outlined in section 3 of the Constitution. Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees every person’s right to demonstrate and petition. The reaction by Zimbabwe’s ruling party to the peoples’ desire to exercise constitutionally guaranteed rights is unfortunate.
There is ample evidence that where the language of hate is unleashed by leaders of the ruling party, violence follows. In 1999, ahead of the farm invasions, former ZANU PF leader the late Robert Mugabe told his supporters that they must ‘strike fear into the hearts of the white men.’ What resulted was an outbreak of violence in commercial farms leading to the displacement of over 1,8 million people and the killing of several farmworkers and commercial farmers. In 2008 ahead of the June election run-off, after losing an election to Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe told his supporters that the ballot would never defeat the gun. What followed was a bloodbath that left over 200 opposition supporters dead and thousands nursing injuries. It appears this culture of violence is also characterizing the leadership of ZANU PF, even in the post-Mugabe era. A few weeks ago, Mr. Chinamasa used the same hate speech against journalist Hopewell Chin’ono calling him ‘unscrupulous’ for whistleblowing on corruption related to the procurement of COVID-19 materials. What followed was a violent attack on Hopewell Chin’ono’s home and ultimately his arrest.
ZimRights is concerned when people with access to state power, who control the machinery of violence show a propensity to be irresponsible in speech. It is a failure of responsible leadership. Leaders must be seen to be promoting peace and dialogue, and protecting fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of the country.
Hate speech is explicitly prohibited by our Constitution. Section 61 (5) of the Constitution clearly states that freedom of speech excludes incitement to violence, advocacy of hatred or hate speech. Yesterday’s speech by Mr. Chinamasa constitutes incitement to violence and advocacy of hatred as prohibited by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. As has been documented here, there is evidence that such hate speech leads to violence. ZimRights holds Mr. Chinamasa accountable for any violence that will follow his hate speech.
In that regard, ZimRights calls upon the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) which is constitutionally mandated to monitor, assess and ensure observance of human rights to take note of these pronouncements and open an investigation into the conduct of Mr. Chinamasa as it is clearly in violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. We further call upon the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which is constitutionally mandated to ensure violence-prevention to investigate the utterances of Mr. Chinamasa.
ZimRights, a grassroots movement of ordinary people appreciates that the situation in Zimbabwe has become untenable for ordinary people. The cost of corruption and poor governance has eroded the dignity of the people. It is a time like this when leaders are expected to sympathise with the people and open channels for dialogue to find a solution to the current quagmire. Threats of violence will only escalate the situation. Leaders of political parties must seek inclusive dialogue and not incite violence on the suffering masses.