In view of the recent pronouncements by the President of Zimbabwe to mitigate risks of Corona Virus spread which include a ban of all public gatherings, as Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights we wish to implore the government to further instruct the decongestion of ZUPCO buses to atleast half their carrying capacity in order to minimize human to human contact and Corona virus risk.
We note with great concern that ZUPCO buses are one of the most congested public spaces and that puts both the passengers and crew at Corona risk. The queues and congestion in ZUPCO buses is high corona risk.
We further appreciate the stance taken by the President in declaring Coronavirus a national disaster and we appeal to the citizens to heed the call and practice safety and security measures. We also appeal to citizens to refrain from spreading fake news about the virus outbreak as this causes unnecessary panic and pandemonium.
The Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Hon. Musabayana has revealed that he is not aware of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons which was was adopted by the African Union on 31 August 2016.
The Minister said this during a Senate sitting whilst responding to a question by Honourable Senator Zivira on 12 March 2020. Hon. Sen. Zivira asked “My question is directed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. When is Zimbabwe signing the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Older Persons otherwise known as the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons which was adopted by AU on 31st January 2016? Thank you.”
In response the Deputy Minister said “I want to thank the Hon. Member for the question. Unfortunately, I think it is a bit of a specific question. I am not sure about that particular treaty but I will check with our records and see where it is and then come and update the House.”
The Senate President then asked that “Maybe I encourage the Hon. Senator that since it is a particular question, can you please put it in writing.”
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) would like to applaud the Hon. Senator Zivira for asking the question as the signing of the Protocol will enhance rights of elderly people in Zimbabwe. MIHR has also been engaging MPs and Senators to push the government to ratify the protocol.
Youths from Bulawayo have over the past weekend been involved in promoting the rights of elderly people in the city by donating groceries, toiletries and other necessary items to two old people’s homes in the City.
The youths (about 40 of them) being organized and mobilized by Kaizen Champions Foundation and Friends of Elitah went to Bulawayo Shelter on Friday 28 February 2020 and to Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Home on Sunday 01 March 2020.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) applauds the youths and the two CBOs for prioritising the rights of the elderly at a time when the country is facing acute economic challenges that are making the old people’s homes fail to run smoothly.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is running a #GugawithRights (#AgewithRights) Campaign that seeks to enhance the promotion and defense of the rights of elderly people in Zimbabwe. The organization is also running a #YouthStandUp4HumanRights campaign which encourages young people to defend and promote human rights in their communities.
To express their displeasure and unhappiness at the way Bulawayo City Council has been failing to attend to pertinent residents’ concerns, about 150 Bulawayo ward 9 residents on Sartuday 29 February 2020 forced a premature abortion of a residents and council officials meeting meant to discuss the new council credit policy.
Firstly, the residents refused to sign the register of attendance accusing council of wanting to use the register to fabricate and say they agreed to the policy. The residents said during the budget consultation they rejected the budget but council went ahead to pass it disregarding their input.
Having withdrawn their consent to sign the register, the residents also complained why council sent only 1 employee to present such an important documenting arguing that there was Noone to be minuting residents’ concerns.
Thirdly the residents disputed why the credit policy was said to be approved by council without their (residents) prior consultation.
The residents said they don’t feel the council still has legitimate cause to adress them and thus they need the Minister of Local Government instead.
Eventually the residents told the Council official to leave and the meeting ended without the credit policy presentation.
This is an example of the power that ordinary citizens have should they decide to nonviolently act in unity towards a common cause.
A British Council Next Generation 2019 Study released in January 2020 has revealed that most youths in south – western Zimbabwe have strong ties to their local communities than to the nation as a whole.
According to the study that was conducted in all provinces of Zimbabwe, young people were asked about their feelings of belonging in their communities. “The study found that in issues of belonging there were conflicting views between and within individuals. There are some youths who had a sense of belonging to their communities but did not feel the same about the country. This was mainly in the south-western parts of the country, where young people strongly perceived the lack of development in their communities as systematic marginalisation driven by regionalism. The strong attachment to their communities was also linked with their cultural identity” the study reveals.
The study further reveals that Bulawayo has the highest percentage of youths who feel they belong to the province at 97%, followed by Matabeleland North at 76.9%, then Masvingo at 76.6%, then Mashonaland East at 76.1%. Overally national belonging is at 64.2% among the youths.
The study further noted some youths sentiments which include:
‘Do not ask me about Zimbabwe. I don’t know Zimbabwe but I know Lupane. Lupane is my home and I would not want to trade it for any other place.’ FGD participant, Lupane, Matabeleland North province, 2019
‘For some of us, it is as if we do not live in Zimbabwe because we don’t see any benefits from the government. When it comes to jobs and opportunities it is always the youth in Mashonaland that benefit. We are surviving on things we get in our community and this community has supported us very well […] but not Zimbabwe.’ FGD participant, Binga, Matabeleland North province, 2019
‘For me, it would be difficult to live anywhere else in this country. I cannot see myself leaving Gwanda for any other place in Zimbabwe.’ FGD participant, Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, 2019
It is sad that the government of Zimbabwe that is desperately clinging to centralized power and refusing to devolve, does not realize that too much centralization of power has alienated youths from nationhood.
A week ago, Binga District in Matabeleland North (Zimbabwe) was one of the Districts heavily affected by drought and there were calls for food aid relief. Just a week later, the calls for relief aid are even worser – not because of the worsening drought but because of flooding. This calls for a serious human rights based approach to settlement, planning and education of our communities.
As MIHR we feel the Binga lesson should be a call for all of us to:
Consider strengthening the Civil Protection Unit of government as a human rights disaster protection mechanism;
Close civil and political rank to focus on protecting the rights of our people;
Remodel rural settlement planning to ensure people are protected from flooding;
Invest in road and bridges infrastructure to ensure roads are travelable during such times so that aid and assistance can easily reach the communities;
Invest in cellphone network penetration in rural areas.
We join the call by other civil society players for citizens and international community to assist the people of Binga.
A Harare company (Mr Brands) which we wrote to in early January and demanded that it corrects the linguistic mistake in one of its brands, has admitted to making a genuine mistake and committed to rectifying the problem.
The company through one Wayne wrote to us on the 24th of January 2020 and claimed that “we were caught off guard being a Christian company as we make food, are not involved in politics and next thing we know we are violating human rights.” The company further elaborated that “as promised we have spent time going through errors, I see not just spelling, but also grammar issues which refer to Shona , I think it was mentioned to me that it said Cook like shona. I can see how this may have offended you. That was not intentional, I am English and make mistake in my very own language.”
The company further sent to MIHR a translation of the Ndebele statement it had drafted and asked the Institute to assist in validating it, which the Institute did.
MIHR would want to acknowledge Mr Brands for the commitment so far to respecting the linguistic rights of the IsiNdebele language speakers and committing to make amends of the wrong that was made.
The Institute further clarifies its position that it has already made to the company, to all companies in Zimbabwe and to all Zimbabwean citizens that human rights are not politics and are not a political matter but a matter of human identity and development.
As a human rights watchdog we shall be monitoring the next batch of the products in the shops and should we find them aptly corrected we shall make it publicly known.