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Deteriorating Human Rights Situation Worrying Zimbabwe Lawyers

Dzimbabwe Chimbga and Rose Hanzi giving oral evidence one the state of human rights in parliament Wednesday. (Photo: Irwin Chifera)

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Wednesday told Parliament’s Senate Human Rights Thematic Committee that violations of Zimbabwean citizens’ social and economic rights are increasing as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

The lawyers also told the committee that they are concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and government’s failure to find missing Occupy Africa Unity Square political activist, Itai Dzamara, who was abducted almost 11 months ago.

In a brief to the committee on the state of human rights in the country, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights senior programs manager, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, said it was regrettable that these violations are occurring despite the adoption of a constitution that guarantees these rights.

“It is our observation that the key drivers for the these violations include the state of the economic situation, the threats of the looming drought and to some extent the embedded political polarization and also to some extent the lack of political will by some state agencies to implement human rights especially in the realm of economic, social and cultural rights,” he said.

Chimbga said evictions and destruction of houses in urban areas were increasing while informal traders were also being targeted by local authorities.

“We have observed in the past year running battles that continue between this group and authorities that include local authorities as well as the police and always the informal traders are at the receiving end of law and sometimes unfairly and they invariably lose some of the goods that they have that they try to use to eke out a living during these difficult times.”

Chimbga said most worrying is the fact that government departments were behind most of the violations.

For example, he said, the Zimbabwe Republic Police continues to make arbitrary arrests under the Criminal Law Codification Act and the Public Order and Security Act and the organization has successfully challenged the arrests in the courts.

Chimbga said in drought-hit rural areas, food was being distributed along partisan lines in direct contravention of the constitution.

The human rights lawyers also expressed concern over the state’s failure to find democracy activist, Itai Dzamara, who was abducted by unknown assailants almost 11 months ago.

Another senior manager with the organization, Roslyn Hanzi, said also of concern was corruption and failure to enforce court judgements that enhance the protection of human rights.

He added that the recent arrest of the Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana was worrying the legal fraternity.

“We are concerned this may make it impossible for future exercise of the prosecutorial discretion without fear or favor this also has a knock on effect within the judiciary legal practitioners in the private and public sectors.”

Committee members commended the organization for detailing human rights abuses with some like Chief Daster Chisunga of Mbire saying there was need for the committee to investigate the abuses.

“I think there is need to seriously interrogate and integrate these issues into our work plan so that maybe we investigate deeply as to which areas are affected.”

Others like Senator Judith Mawire said the lawyers’ organisations should also make noise about other missing persons and not to only concentrate on Dzamara, whose organization is calling on President Mugabe to step down for allegedly failing to properly run Zimbabwe.