Civil society also known as non-governmental organisations  is a study in paradox.
At the basic level the prefix ‘non-’ implies that these groupings are cut off from any governmental influence, whether in their home or host countries.

They pass themselves off as voluntary organisations that serve people mainly in the developing world in the social services sector, but their proliferation over the past 15 years shows that the organisations are embedded in the expansion of global white capital throughout the world.
NGOs are as much a part of capitalism as the neo-liberal economic policies from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that create enabling environments for their emergence.

The economic prescriptions from the two Bretton Woods institutions advocate minimum government as they call for budget cuts in the ‘non-productive’ social services sector.
When the State moves out of these sectors, the void left is conveniently filled by NGOs that take over the government’s role of looking after the citizens.
The ultimate objective being to alienate the citizen from the ‘uncaring’ government.

This may all seem harmless since these philanthropic organisations are, after all, ‘non-governmental.’
The plot is, however, much uglier as the NGOs are intrinsically linked to the governments in their home countries, which is why some scholars have likened them to latter day missionaries saying they facilitate neo-colonialism.

The same goes for many  so-called human rights activists who proliferate in many post-colonial societies. Listening to these “activists’’ you would be mistaken for thinking human rights only pertain to civil and political rights.
For these are the only rights they harp about ad nauseum yet the human rights discourse is far broader than civil and political rights as it encompasses other genres like economic, social and cultural rights.

Human rights are entitlements one has by virtue of being a human being and they derive from man’s moral nature which is defined by scientifically ascertainable needs. Human rights are needed not for life but for a life of dignity. As the International Human Rights Covenants put it, human rights arise from “the inherent dignity of the human person.’’

As such violations of human rights deny one a life of dignity; they do not necessarily keep one from satisfying one’s needs. From the foregoing, it follows that human rights are those things needed for a life worthy of a human being, a life that cannot be enjoyed without these rights.
It thus worth interrogating those who purport to be championing human rights in Zimbabwe whether the generation of human rights they harp about ad nauseum are missing in this country and whether they are essential for a life of dignity.

The answer is an obvious no.
You will never hear self-styled rights activists like Beatrice Mtetwa championing our rights to our land and everything under and in it.
The Mtetwas of this world would rather spend their time talking about civil and political rights and provoking incidents that put the spotlight on Zimbabwe to serve the interests of outsiders keen to bar us from asserting our economic rights.

It’s easy to become a “human rights’’ activist in Zimbabwe. All you need to do is represent opposition politicians or activists in court. And voila! You are elevated to the lofty status of “human rights’’ lawyer.

Alternatively you can trash your people’s rights to their God-given resources, provoke arrests and you not only become a human rights activist, but also a recipient of western awards for all sorts of things ranging from “bravery’’ to anything that meets your fancy.
It was shocking to hear Beatrice Mtetwa (nee Mnzebele) claim human rights advocacy after she was granted bail on charges of trying to obstruct the course of justice when she tried to prevent the police from searching the offices of an outfit calling itself the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in Zimbabwe.

“It is a personal attack on all human rights lawyers but I was just made the first example. There will be many more arrests to follow as we near elections. The police were all out to get me. They wanted me to feel their might and power because I call myself a human rights lawyer and I felt it,” Mnzebele, sorry, Mtetwa quipped to the cameras.
Really? How can shouting at police officers going about their business be equated to an assault on “all human rights lawyers’’?

Mtetwa was arrested on March 17, along with four officials from MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party. The officials are accused of illegally compiling information on alleged high level corruption.

Mtetwa is accused of shouting unprintable words at the police whom she is reported to have called “Mugabe’s dogs’’ among other epithets.
If that is what human rights advocacy is all about, then my grandmother is a virgin.

This daughter-in-law of ours, who is in fact no longer with the son who brought her here, should remember that she stays here on the good graces of the same Government she bad mouths without a sense of irony. If that Government did not respect her rights, it would have cancelled her residency permit ages ago and put her on the next plane to Mbabane, via Johannesburg. And there won’t be anything she or her friends like Kerry Kennedy can do about it.

I have been there but unlike her, I never called Seretse Khama Ian Khama any names.

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