Zimbabwe’s Madam D. Mangota, secretary for justice and legal affairs has responded to
Human rights violations raised by the Human Rights Institute of Southern Africa, HURISA at the recently concluded NGOs Forum in Banjul April 25-27, 2011.
Speaking at the on-going two-week 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR in Banjul, which started on April 28, she said issues of arbitrary arrest, political violence, and selective application of the law are issues that have been raised in previous sessions.
With specific mention of the arrest of Gwisai, Lewanika and Chikomo amongst others, she said these people were arrested for contravening Zimbabwe’s Laws. “In respect of Gwisai and 45 others, these people were taking before a Magistrate, who, after hearing evidence, ruled that the 39 should be set free and the remaining six should stand trial,” she explained.
“This matter has been set down for trial on the 18th of July 2011.”
She argued that this information has not been given to the Commission by the NGOs Forum; however, she said the Zimbabwe Government action is an adherence to the rule of law. Article 29(3) of the Charter, provides that, the individual shall also have the duty not to compromise the security of the state regardless of what residency or nationality.
She stressed that an individual has a duty to obey the laws of the country in which he is a citizen or resident, while alleging that some of the NGOs, one of which is WOZA, have publicly vowed not to obey the national laws of Zimbabwe.
Madam Mangota added that the police are mandated to “arrest people” who violate the country’s laws. Statistics from the police indicate that contrary to the allegations made by the NGOs Forum, of selective application of the law, arrests have been made across the political divide.
In clear terms, she said Governments are signatories to the Charter and political parties. The current Government of Zimbabwe comprises of three political parties. The Ministry of Home Affairs in charge of the police department is headed by two ministers from two political parties one of which is the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC-T.
She said: “It is improper and unreasonable to allege that one part of Government is victim to the same inclusive Government. The submission by the NGOs Forum seems to suggest that they hold brief on behalf of one partner in Government to the total exclusion of the other partner.”
On allegations that the media is state-controlled, Madam Mangota the allegations of hate speech coming out of the public media and lack of press freedom, the Zimbabwe Government recalled dealing with the issues in the last two previous sessions.
“We previously informed this Commission that an Independent Media Commission was established in early 2010. The Commission’s mandate is to register the media and adjudicate on complaints received from the public,” she said.
“The Executives no longer plays a part, and the NGOs Forum is aware of the prevailing status quo. It is there mischievous for the NGOs to raise this issue. Since the last Session, 12 new licenses have been issued to new media players.”
On issues raised about repressive laws such as POSA, she argued that it is prudent to inform the Commission that the NGOs Forum failed deliberately to inform the African Commission of the existence of a Private Members Bill to amend POSA is now before the Upper House.
With regards to the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Tribunal, she said the Government of Zimbabwe raise in the last session that the Commission was being requested to deliberate on matters of another regional organ, which is outside its mandate.
Yet, she said they hear NGOs urging the Commission to pass some resolutions or order on the good work of SADC vis-à-vis the composition, powers and mandate of its Tribunal.
She explained that issues such as the security sector reforms and the implementation of the SADC Troika Resolutions are maters that are before the Principals of the Inclusive Government.
“Regarding the implementation of the GPA, it is an ongoing process. In previous Sessions we mentioned that the National Human Rights Commission is in place and one of the Commissioners is currently attending this session. The Legislation in respect of the Commission is due to be presented before parliament,” she said.
She also made reference to an earlier statement which states that in February 2011, Zimbabwe launched her anti-sanctions campaign, while lamenting that the effects of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe have an adverse effect on the enjoyment of basic human rights such as: the right to education, health, food, shelter and other economic and social rights.
And for this reason, she said the Principals of the inclusive government agreed to target the removal of sanctions as one of their main objectives. “We confirmed that all the people of Zimbabwe, representative of the NGOs community here present included, acknowledge this simple fact that sanctions which Britain and her Western allies imposed on Zimbabwe are violating our peoples’ rights,” she said.
According to her, SADC and the African Union (AU) are of one mind on this very serious matter. Yet there remains a deafening silence on the part of all NGOs operating in Zimbabwe, the SADC Region or on the continent on the need to pronounce themselves clearly and loudly on such a serious matter as the present one.
“If they spend a lot of their time presenting to this Honorable Commission such insignificant matters as the arrest of Mr. Gwisai, Mr. Abel Chikomo and the alleged harassment, torture or persecution of some journalist, human right defenders or urging the Honorable Commission to pass resolutions on this or that matter may be of very little, if any significance to the real work of this Commission.”
She further argued that they (human rights defenders) work tirelessly to divide the people of Zimbabwe on political lines, painting one political party as always the villain and the other ones the victim or victims. They do so because those very countries which violates their peoples’ basic right to food, education, shelter, health service and the like through these illegal sanctions, instruct these NGOs to continue to come to the session of this Honourable Commission and feed distinguished participants with the simple message that not all is well in Zimbabwe.
She stressed that NGOs in Zimbabwe know as much as they do, despite the hardships that their people are made to bear as a result of the imposed “illegal” sanctions, however, she added that their people are moving forward together in a spirit of oneness of purpose.
She said: “Zimbabweans are a relentless people who are being persecuted for asserting their God-given rights and for refusing to be made servants for the second time by those who once colonise them.”
Most of the NGO representatives from Zimbabwe or SADC are intelligent legal practitioners and are pretty much aware of the fact that the country is currently going through a constitution-making process, she said.
Adding that the process calls upon all interested parties from within and outside “Zimbabwe to proffer their opinions on how they want the supreme law of Zimbabwe to appear in the final analysis. NGOs are therefore at liberty to have their views on all laws which they dislike included in the draft constitution which will soon be made into law in, and for, Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans.”
Dust and mandate
In her conclusion, the Zimbabwe’s secretary for justice and legal affairs Madam D. Mangota slams NGOs which she said are wasting the Commission’s time on matters which they know that can only be corrected at home and no at the Session.
“As intelligent members of the learned profession, the NGO communities in Zimbabwe and the region know that the Commission is an organ of the AU in as much as SADC, properly constituted, is also an organ of the AU,” she said.
“They therefore do know that this Honourable Commission does not have the mandate to condemn, correct the work, or decisions of a sister organ of the African Union.
I am urging this Commission to keep its head above this meaningless dust and to continue to bear in mind that the NGO communities which spoke about alleged persecution, harassment of human rights defenders and journalists in Zimbabwe are saying nothing new except to sing their master’s voice”
“Let us not allow ourselves to be carried away by the eloquence of the NGOs who, when they have nothing of substance to say, stand before this august gathering and repeat themselves time and again on matters they have addressed to the Commission in its previous sessions,” she stressed. Source - The Voice