The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the rest of Africa in commemorating the African Human Rights Day and the 22nd Anniversary of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on 21 October. This year’s commemorations come in the wake of the signing of a power sharing agreement that was brokered following a campaign of violence that marred the “run off” election. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, also known as the Banjul/African Charter, came into effect on 21 October 1986 and this day was declared “African Human Rights Day”. Zimbabwe signed and ratified the African Charter in 1986 affirming her commitment to the fundamental values and principles that are enshrined in the Charter.
Article 13 (1) of the African Charter reminds us that,“ Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law”. As a State party to the African Charter Zimbabwe is bound by the provisions of Article 13. The government is expected to take positive steps to ensure the realisation of this and other provisions of the Charter. On 29 March 2008, Zimbabweans went to the polls to elect parliamentarians, local government officials and the president and in so doing participated in the government of their country. However according to official results, none of the presidential aspirants in the March 29 elections obtained the required majority resulting in a “run off”. In the period leading to the June 2008 run-off election, the Forum recorded cumulative figures of 7252 state sponsored, politically motivated human rights violations. These violations include displacements, torture, politically-motivated killings, death threats and violations to freedoms of association, assembly and expression. The environment was therefore not conducive for the holding of free and fair elections, leading to the withdrawal of the MDC president from the process. However the political protagonists entered into talks that resulted in the signing of a power sharing agreement. The Forum recognizes that any brokered deal is a compromise arrangement that circumvents the popular will. The process of establishing a negotiated government remains anathema to the fundamentals of democratic political participation and a fundamental departure from the provision of article 13 of the African Charter. The people of Zimbabwe have a right to participate freely in the government of their country.
The Forum reiterates its call to the government for a process that would lead to justice for victims and national healing. The Forum notes with dismay that since the holding of the elections, there has been no official truth and/or justice seeking policies to deal with the scourge of violence surrounding the two elections. We believe such a process can help victims rise above their memories of pain and their desire for retribution.