Lloyd Gumbo in GENEVA, Switzerland
Zimbabwe is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights evidenced by the adoption of various initiatives that it has come up with to ensure its citizens enjoy their rights, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.The Vice President said this when he officially presented Zimbabwe’s human rights national report at the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Centre here yesterday.
VP Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had made progress in the implementation of the 130 recommendations that it accepted from UN Member-States in 2012.
He said the national report had input from various stakeholders among them civil society organisations, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, Government ministries, labour, the private sector, independent commissions and United Nations Country Team.
VP Mnangagwa said the negative impact of the El Nino-induced drought adversely affected Government’s implementation of social and economic rights, which left the population vulnerable.
“The negative impact of the current drought is putting pressure on the Government to redirect resources from national social programmes towards feeding over eight hundred thousand vulnerable households,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He said the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West worsened the situation as the country could not get balance of payment support.
Despite these challenges, VP Mnangagwa said Government continued to put in place initiatives and policies that ensure implementation of its socio-economic and cultural obligations.
“In order to promote these fundamental rights, Government, among other initiatives launched the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation in 2013, which is the Government’s major economic blueprint that is aimed at achieving sustainable and equitable economic and social development, propelled by the judicious and optimum utilisation of the country’s natural resources,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa said to ensure food security in 2017, Government embarked on command agriculture with the objective of producing excess grain.
He said adoption of the new Constitution in 2013 was another milestone that Zimbabwe achieved since the last review.
“The Constitution has been lauded for its substantive content that introduces salient foundational democratic elements and an expanded bill of rights, incorporating all generations of rights.
“These rights can only be meaningful to our people through implementation of legislative and administrative measures to actualise the Constitution,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He said establishment of the Constitutional Court also saw the landmark rulings that enhanced human rights, for instance, against child marriages on the basis of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution that sets the age of majority at 18.
VP Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had ratified several human rights treaties and conventions that would go a long way in promoting and protecting human rights.
He said in line with the recommendations from the previous UPR, the new Constitution provided for the establishment of independent commissions, that was autonomously funded.
Some Member-States had raised advance questions that VP Mnangagwa addressed in the report.
The issue of ending early and forced child marriages was one of the most dominant issues that was raised with VP Mnangagwa saying that the Constitutional Court had since made a ruling on the matter while Government would come up with a law that harmonises and aligns all marriage laws.
Western countries among them Britain, Germany, Sweden and Netherlands implored Government to ratify the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances.
Spain also asked Zimbabwe to clarify the disappearance of MDC-T activist Itai Dzamara.
VP Mnangagwa said isolated cases of disappearances had been reported previously.
“This is a major concern to Government. Whenever such reports are brought to the attention of law enforcement agents, thorough investigations are carried out.
“In this particular case, Government is investigating all the leads to establish the whereabouts of our citizen and in this regard Government is working with the family of the missing person and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,” said VP Mnangagwa.
The United States of America asked how Government would address the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s lack of funds and independence in order to ensure that citizens are allowed free and equal participation at the 2018 harmonised elections.
“ZEC is independent and Government does not interfere with its operations,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“Government is supporting ZEC to discharge its mandate. Since the last review, a total amount of $1, 913 549 was extended to ZEC. This is despite our current economic challenges,” said VP Mnangagwa.
He also dismissed concerns raised by the US that food relief was being distributed on partisan grounds saying Government had adopted a zero tolerance policy to such activities.
The US and Britain also asked what measures Government was putting in place to ensure people exercise their right to freedom of assembly and free association.
“Government fully acknowledges its obligations to promote, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” said VP Mnangagwa.
“However, these rights are not absolute and must be exercised peacefully and with due respect to the rights of others, as provided for in the Constitution. Hence, Government will continue to ensure that such rights are enjoyed by all without causing any harm or prejudice to other people,” said VP Mnangagwa.