Political rights are part of the ‘first generation’ of human rights – the ones that matter most to men and (unfortunately much less frequently) women competing for political power. Although the Human Rights Monitor came into existence during the worst political violence of our recent past, it has not yet assessed the state of political rights in Zimbabwe. Now is a good time to do so.
Our Constitution is relatively silent on what our political rights are. It follows the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in (conditionally) upholding the ‘fundamental freedoms’ of thought, opinion, expression, communication, assembly, association and movement. But s21(2) does note specifically that freedom of association ‘shall include the right not to be compelled to belong to an association’. In other words, if anyone tries to force you to buy a party membership card, that infringes your constitutional rights. Even to buy one simply for protection, without being forced, is an infringement of your political rights.
This Human Rights Monthly also analyses how this relates to elections and the enjoyment of political rights in practice.